New UF-created virtual lawn tool lets users test water-saving systems
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida homeowners can now test different water-saving lawn irrigation systems by using a free web application recently released by the University of Florida.
The interactive lawn irrigation tool creates a virtual lawn so users can test the results of different irrigation systems without having to actually install one.
The tool came is available at http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/interactive_irrigation_tool/.
Researchers in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences designed the program to help homeowners enhance the quality of their lawns, save water and energy and reduce their water bills.
“Just by improving something small like your lawn irrigation can save a lot of water,” said Kati Migliaccio, an associate professor in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department.
Migliaccio, who helped develop the program, is based at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.
Users can test irrigation systems, such as time-based schedulers, or time-based schedulers coupled with smart technologies such as rain sensors, soil moisture sensors and evapotranspiration controllers.
The smart technologies override and turn off time-based based schedulers if lawns have already received enough water from rain.
“We’re measuring with these smart technologies, depending on what people were doing, between 30 to 40 percent water savings,” Migliaccio said.
The program requires users to enter the root depth of their lawn, their soil type, acreage and ZIP code. They also choose an irrigation system to test.
The tool is integrated with the Florida Automated Weather Network, or FAWN, which has 36 weather stations throughout the state that record rainfall and other data.
The tool combines rainfall and evapotranspiration data from the closest FAWN weather station with the user-submitted information to determine whether the user’s lawn received too much or too little water over the course of a week.
Users are notified about their chosen system’s effectiveness through a weekly email report. Migliaccio noted that the closer users are to a FAWN station, the more accurate the rainfall data will be.
FAWN programmers helped develop the tool, and FAWN Director Rick Lusher said making the program easy to use was a priority.
“This is a water conservation tool that if a user will just take a couple of minutes to put in a few pieces of information, they can quickly get back useful information,” Lusher said.
The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association funded the tool’s development.