SWAT Tactics

Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) is a coalition of water purveyors, equipment manufacturers, and irrigation practitioners with shared interests in Smart technologies. According to the Irrigation Association (IA), reducing landscape water demand — which can account for up to 70 percent of water use in some parts of the country — is a critical way to help address the seasonal scarcity, and is the reason SWAT was created.

“Irrigation is a system, and just slapping a new controller on the wall will not save water.

Brian Vinchesi, IA SWAT chairman

According to Brian Vinchesi, IA SWAT chairman, the overarching goal of the SWAT initiative is, “To improve water efficiency in irrigation systems by providing third-party testing of new technologies and, once tested, provide marketing materials and opportunities to help promote those new technologies in the marketplace.”

Jenna Smith, chair of the SWAT Promotions Working Group, SWAT increases water-provider and end-user support of more efficient irrigation technologies and practices through the development of benchmark testing and high-quality educational materials.

SWAT has established partnerships between water providers and the irrigation industry, and has increased the use of Smart controllers, said Smith.

The SWAT initiative has allowed the two sides to talk and understand each other’s perspectives about water-conserving products, Vinchesi added.

SWAT protocol testing

“SWAT-tested products have all been tested against a common protocol by an independent third party,” said Vinchesi. “The results can be used by contractors to determine which type of Smart controller might best suit their project.”

Smart controllers have been tested, and soil moisture sensors have been — and are being — tested. “Soil moisture sensors in combination with a controller will be tested later this year,” said Vinchesi. “The rain sensor protocol draft 2 will be out soon for public review. Other potential products include pressure-regulating sprinklers and valves; multi-stream, multi-trajectory nozzles; and other types of system interruption devices.”

Playing a bigger role

According to Vinchesi, turf and landscape irrigation contractors can play a bigger role in Smart irrigation by being educated about Smart technologies and how they should be installed and utilized.

“These types of systems require a good knowledge of irrigation concepts and the equipment being used,” said Vinchesi. “Irrigation is a system, and just slapping a new controller on the wall will not save water. System evaluation and proper programming will provide for a more efficient irrigation system.”

Vinchesi added that contractors need to educate themselves so that they, in turn, can educate their clients on proper irrigation practices.

“Make sure the customer knows how quickly, or slowly, the sprinklers apply water. Explain to them that everyday watering is not necessary, and that the irrigation system does not have to run all the time just because it is automatic.”

According to Vinchesi, the SWAT initiative is looking for contractors throughout the country to participate in its various working groups. It is important that the working groups have a cross-section of the country and the various stakeholders involved in irrigation (i.e., manufacturers, consultants, distributors and contractors.)

“It is envisioned that SWAT is the first step in labeling irrigation products through the EPA WaterSense program,” said Vinchesi. “SWAT requires donations to accomplish its mission. Donations in any increment are welcomed to help fulfill SWAT’s mission.”

For more information about the SWAT initiative, visit www.irrigation.org

Industry Certification

According to the Irrigation Association (IA), industry certification establishes professional credentials and demonstrates commitment to your profession. It helps show your peers, employer and potential customers that you have experience and technical competence applicable to the certification earned.

“Certification allows contractors to separate themselves from the pack,” said Brian Vinchesi, IA SWAT Chairman. “It shows that they understand basic irrigation principles and that they have taken the time to invest in their education and improve their knowledge.”

According to the IA, certification is a commitment to keep informed about new developments and abide by a code of ethics. The IA certifies individuals, not companies, and annual renewal is required. The IA lists currently certified individuals on its Web site.

Four IA certifications were the first to earn the EPA WaterSense label:

  • Certified Irrigation Designer
  • Certified Irrigation Contractor
  • Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor
  • Certified Golf Irrigation Auditor

The WaterSense label will increase consumer awareness and demand for professionals who use water-efficient products and practices. Individuals certified through programs that have earned the WaterSense label may become WaterSense partners by completing a partnership agreement at www.epa.gov/watersense/partners WaterSense lists WaterSense partners on its Web site.

Certified Water Conservation Manager – Landscape is the IA’s newest certification. These professionals evaluate and manage systems to achieve the highest level of water conservation possible. They discuss scheduling, maintenance and water conservation with the end user.

Additionally the IA offers instructor-led courses at the Irrigation Show every year. This year the show will be in Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 2-4, 2008. Education courses will start October 30. IA education is also offered at regional shows and locations throughout the United States and Canada, during the year, and especially in the winter months. The education schedule is continually updated at www.irrigation.org

The IA’s first Web course, Landscape Irrigation Hydraulics, just launched at the IA Learning Center, also at the IA Web site. More courses are scheduled to follow over the next few months. The self-paced course allows students to learn when and where they choose. Self-paced learning can help industry newcomers and industry professionals expand their knowledge and achieve industry certification.

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