System Check Vol. 4

The fourth and final stage of checking out your irrigation system. 

Now that you have spent all the time going through the computer, weather station and pump station there is one large piece of the puzzle that can make all your work pay off or be worth nothing.  The equipment in the field.  Yes, the 2000 or so heads that you are hoping to run perfectly as when they were tested in a gymnasium with no wind and optimum pressure.

No matter the brand of head you have on the course, you could have a flawless computer program, a weather station that is used by NASA for it's accuracy and a pump station that can handle anything you throw at it and still fall short on your desired results.  Your water event planning can all be for nothing if the equipment in the field has been neglected or assumed that it is in good operating condition.

A few things to ensure that you are doing everything you can to provide unparallel conditions will be simple to expalin in this blog post, but might not necessarily be done in a timely manner.  Tedious may come to mind when you read the follow areas of concerns that I like to look at when preparing yourself with the best season possible.

First step, mechanical operation  This is a relatively easy process.  Turn on the head and make sure it works.  Does the head turn, no fair turning it on for a second to make sure it is not leaking and then marking it off good.  It has to still rotate at a similar pace as the others.

While the head is running take a good look at the main stream.  Does it look normal?  The tail, is it hitting the ground in any way?  Everything should have a decent angle up and away from the turf.  If even a little spray is hitting the turf from the tail, either the head is too low in the ground or you have a plugged nozzle.  You would be supprised at how far the distribution uniformity can be thrown off by the tiniest pebble.

Second step, what is the head trying to accomplish and is it doing a good job?  If you have a part circle head running along the native, but is spending 10% of it's alotted time outside your expected irrigated area, you are losing around 50-60 gal of water from that head each night.  Now if you start to calculate that over the few hundred heads you have along the perimeter of the golf course you can imagine the amount of waste that you are enduring.

Third step, make sure you are actually reaching operatring pressure.  A valve in head sprinkler should regulate the pressure to it's set operating pressure, but if the pressure at the base of the head is not at least 10psi over the set pressure the head will not regulate it efficiently giving you an incorrect usage expectations.  The common way to test this is to turn the head on and insert a pito tube into the main nozzle as it operates. Make sure you have rain gear on for this test.  Another option is this handy little modification with a schrader valve at the top of the nozzle assembly.  This makes for a quick and easy way to check and adjust pressure when necessary.

Fourth step, maybe it is time to do a water audit.  The information you can collect from an audit will give you the ability to make a more informed decision on if you want to replace the nozzles, level the heads, or trouble shoot why one area may be wet or may be dry. 

Other attributes of a sprinkler head that you want to look for and make sure you have all your ducks in a row is nozzle color/size,.  These little gems of information can help you turn your central control computer into your friendly giant.

Irrigation has always been the life support of the golf course.  If neglected, the irrigation system can become your biggest nightmare.  A few simple and not so simple processes that can be scheduled on a regular basis can make quite a difference.