LAKEWOOD RANCH — When Joe Sidiski became a supervisor on the Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 4 board four years ago, he had an agenda to improve the quality of life in his Greenbrook community.
On many evenings as he and his wife, Bonnie, would walk after dinner, the couple would be forced off the sidewalk as sprinklers turned on and launched water toward them.
But thanks to technology upgrades in the Lakewood Ranch community, Lakewood Ranch’s operations department not only has been able to make adjustments to CDD 4’s watering schedule, but it has also saved money — more than $4,000 in the month of June alone. Combined with districts 1, 2 and 5, Lakewood Ranch saved an estimated $11,400 on irrigation water last month.
“People move to the community because they want to enjoy the community,” Sidiski said. “We have not been bothered by watering since they were able to do this. It’s been delightful. A number of people have commented they are really happy. Cost savings are always nice.”
Although system upgrades are not yet complete, IDA Operations Director Ryan Heise said he now is confident in the progress of upgrades and the data being collected by the new technology; he included estimated water savings in reports for CDD supervisors at their July meeting.
A weather station within each district now monitors rainfall, and Web-based monitoring software allows IDA staff to remotely turn off sprinkler heads during rain events more quickly — when rainfall reaches one-quarter inch compared with four-tenths of an inch previously. A variance from the Southwest Florida Water Management District also permits more frequent watering of common areas because of the new controls.
“That was huge for us. We could schedule irrigation up to three times a week,” Heise said. “We can water later at night along the sidewalk and roadways for shorter durations. We couldn’t do that before. We’ve gotten a lot less complaints.”
Maintenance Manager Paul Chetlain agreed.
“The controllers are more reliable,” Chetlain said. “We can monitor how the system is performing. Now, we have a level of quality control we never had.”
The IDA, which handles common issues for the CDDs, maintains 187 controllers, 1,551 valves and 52,762 sprinkler heads.
Since beginning to upgrade irrigation technology four years ago, costs for repairs to those items have decreased from $34,798 in 2009 to $1,857 in 2013.
Altogether, districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 use 15,661,650 gallons, or about the equivalent of 23.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools, per week.
Currently, Lakewood Ranch CDDS pay 90 cents per 1,000 gallons for irrigation water. That figure will jump to $1.05 per 1,000 gallons in the fall.
“It will make a big difference,” Heise said.
Irrigation installation continues
The IDA uses two types of controllers — large controllers from the Tucor system, which utilizes weather stations within each district, and small controllers, which are part of the wireless Water Optimizer system.
Although most system upgrades have been completed, some remain, including:
• In CDD 4, large controllers will be installed in one remaining area this fiscal year;
• In CDD 5, one large controller installation will be completed next fiscal year;
• In CDD 2, work on small controller installation will be completed next fiscal year; and
• In CDD 1, one large controller installation and the replacement of battery-operated controllers will be completed next fiscal year.
Conservation by district
Estimated savings in June
District 1 — $1,511
District 2 — $ 2,538
District 4 — $4,391
District 5 — $3,022
Total — $11,462
Click here to view water requirements by district
By the numbers
90 - In cents, cost per 1,000 gallons of irrigation water
510 - Number of acres irrigated in Lakewood Ranch CDDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 weekly based on GIS data.
27,154 - Gallons of water it takes to cover one acre of land with 1 inch of water.
11,462 - In dollars, combined savings to CDDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 on irrigation water.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected]