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Trickle down economics

Investments in irrigation improvements could make a splash in CDD budgets. The bucket of savings could top $388,000 for the current fiscal year.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. April 29, 2015
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — If trends continue, residents of Lakewood Ranch could drink up savings from common area water irrigation at the end of this fiscal year.

  Based on trends from the last five years and water usage projections, Lakewood Ranch Phase I residents may see more than 28% savings in irrigation water costs. Lakewood Ranch CDDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 are projected to save about $388,000 this year in irrigation costs said Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Financial Director Steve Zielinski.

“We have six months to go, but I ran different scenarios to come up with my projections,” Zielinski said.

Irrigation water use has trended downward the last five years, except for in 2012. In fiscal year 2014, districts saw between $37,000 to $52,000 in savings as a result of decreased usage.

Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Director of Operations Ryan Heise said the reduced water usage for common area landscaping can be attributed to several factors, including continued implementation of soil moisture technologies, weather stations, grass-to-mulch conversions and other improvements.

Specifically, the operations department has been modifying the way Lakewood Ranch’s sprinkler heads are laid out by converting rotary heads, which can spray 20 feet past a sidewalk, to more targeted spray heads in areas where turf is minimal, such as between a curb and a sidewalk.

“It’s expensive, but it’s worth it,” Heise said, noting the districts collectively will have spent approximately $243,000 on irrigation improvements over the last five years (see chart). 

“We’re applying water directly to the turf, and it’s less aggravating for people trying to use the sidewalks during (the watering time).”

Each CDD also has a weather station, which factors in evapotranspiration — i.e. the movement of water from Earth to the atmosphere — along with sunlight, windspeed and relative humidity to recalculate irrigation run times. The weather stations then communicate to the controllers about when to run and when to shut off. Generally, turf needs 1 inch of water per week to thrive. 

Although Town Hall is done with major upgrades for irrigation controls this year, Heise said it will continue converting its sprinkler head layout. And in some instances where oak trees have matured and grass is thinning and no longer viable, staff will remove the turf and replace it with mulch and micro irrigation. 

But, Heise says, the potential for continued savings continues to increase. Because Lakewood Ranch residents pay for yard irrigation through CDD assessments, the more individual residents conserve water, the more everyone within their district saves.

“The residential acreage is greater than the common area irrigated acreage,” Heise said. “We hope to continue to promote this technology for our residents and have them incorporate the soil moisture technology, and we’ll continue to see savings.”

Town Hall will educate residents about soil moisture sensor technologies and possibly offer rebate programs for such technologies in the future.

“We hope to continue to promote this technology for our residents ... and we’ll continue to see savings.” – Ryan Heise, Town Hall director of operations



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