September 2013, Vol. 25, No.9


Tool reduces use of irrigation water

Using water wisely is a growing trend, and a new technology enables users to adjust irrigation controls based on local watering index recommendations. The WaterDex device developed by Rockrose Technology Inc. (Irvine, Calif.) is a wireless remote control that bypasses controls and manages irrigation based on a localized, evapotranspiration-based watering index, according to a company news release.  

Irvine (Calif.) Ranch Water District, through Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.), conducted an independent study of the device. Results show that a majority of customers regularly used and were satisfied with the device and saw a greater reduction in water use, the news release says.  

The device, designed to be easy to use and less expensive than other controls, includes a dial that wirelessly adjusts irrigation based on weather and local conditions. Consumers can receive e-mails reporting the local recommended watering index settings. A wireless remote control can be used inside the home, the news release says. 

With landscaping typically accounting for the largest amount of residential water use, water utilities have been encouraging consumers to purchase water-smart irrigation controls. The City of Huntington Beach, Calif., for example, purchased 200 devices to use in an upcoming educational outreach effort encouraging consumers to use water more efficiently, the release says. 


Costs top the charts of primary concerns for water sector  


The water industry faces the challenges of aging infrastructure and managing capital and operational costs, according to 2013 Strategic Directions in the U.S. Water Industry, the second annual U.S. water industry report published by Black & Veatch (Overland Park, Kan.).  

According to the report, the industry is focused on informed spending to stretch limited budgets and extend the life of current assets. More than 90% of utility leaders expect to have formal asset management programs in place or in progress by 2016, according to a Black & Veatch news release. 

The report represents responses from 397 water industry participants and includes case studies from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Water loss, at a national average of 20%, is one key challenge. In addition, nearly 70% of respondents are implementing drought contingency plans, nearly 60% stated that their customers had little to no understanding of the gap between current rates and the cost of providing safe and reliable water and/or wastewater services, and less than 20% of respondents’ organizations are considering using a public–private partnership, the news release says. 

“Asset management programs will help utilities address these challenges,” said Cindy Wallis-Lage, president of Black & Veatch’s water business. “However, this will not erase the large capital needs of our water infrastructure.” 



Iowa water and soil data help NASA develop precipitation-monitoring program  


Researchers in Iowa are working to provide precipitation, soil moisture, and temperature data to residents, and NASA scientists are using the data to launch an international precipitation-monitoring program.  

As part of the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) project, researchers have designed and installed 20 rain gauges with soil probes in three Iowa watersheds, according to an Iowa Flood Center (Iowa City) news release. The center and NASA partnered for this project to offer access to accurate, real-time information via the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).  

IFloodS is a part of NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission that will measure global precipitation from space, according to a NASA news release. The GPM Core Observatory, a satellite that will collect precipitation information, will launch in early 2014. Scientists are developing methods to turn satellite observations into meaningful data by measuring rainfall with existing satellites and rain gauges in the field and using these data for such applications as flood forecasting and monitoring of water resources, the NASA news release says.  

In Iowa, researchers collected ground data, including raindrop numbers, sizes, and shapes; the amount of rainfall; and soil moisture and temperature. Researchers will compare ground data to atmospheric data collected from NASA’s polarimetric precipitation radar deployed south of Waterloo, Iowa, the NASA news release says.  

IFloodS will help researchers understand the physics of rainfall formation and growth, the interaction of precipitation particles, and changes in raindrop distribution. Researchers will input these data into flood-prediction computer models and evaluate how rain estimates and their uncertainties affect the outcome of the flood forecast, the NASA news release says.  

“This study is unique in that it takes spaceborne observations, it takes ground-based observations, and it brings those things into a modeling framework that should further our ability to predict flooding,” said Walt Petersen, NASA GPM ground validation scientist. 

IFIS provides flood condition information from nearly 275 U.S. Geological Survey and Iowa Flood Center gauges across the state to the community. Gauges transmit data through a built-in cell modem to the IFIS, where the data can be viewed through an interactive map and various graphics online. IFloodS data are accessible under the state overview and rain/soil moisture gauge option under the data resources tab at . 


Stockholm Water Prize laureate has provided water and sanitation worldwide  


Peter Morgan, director of Aquamor Pvt. Ltd. (Harare, Zimbabwe), has spent his career developing and advancing simple, low-cost technologies that deliver clean water and sanitation worldwide. His work has earned him recognition as the 2013 Stockholm Water Prize laureate.  

Morgan has developed many technologies, including the B-type Bush Pump and Blair ventilated improved pit latrine, that have been become the national standard in Zimbabwe, according to a Stockholm International Water Institute news release. He also created the upgraded family well, which has helped improve the quality of water obtained from wells, and eco-san toilets, which enable safe reuse of human waste to enhance soil quality and crop production. Morgan also has developed training and educational materials that empower people to install, maintain, and improve on the technology, the news release says.  

“This prestigious award encourages me to carry on to play my part to improve the conservation and supply of this most precious resource — water — and provide more people with access to clean sanitation,” Morgan said. 

Morgan previously served as chief research officer and acting director of the central government’s Blair research laboratory in Harare and advisor to the national health ministry. He has authored more than 100 articles and is president of the Zimbabwe Scientific Association and editor of Zimbabwe Science News. He also has received the International Inventors Award, African Ministers’ Council on Water (Abuja, Nigeria) AfricaSan award for Technical Innovation in Sanitation, and the Rural Water Supply Network (St. Gallen, Switzerland) award for Lifetime Services to Rural Water Supply, the news release says.