Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the irrigation system was created by both students and faculty rather than by the Plant Operations Grounds department.
As April showers transition into May flowers, the University plans to save money and promote water preservation through the implementation of a technologically advanced irrigation system called Maxicom, which was developed and implemented by the Plant Operations Grounds department.
According to Terry Alexander, executive director for the University’s Office of Sustainability, the system will reduce current water usage for activities like watering grassy areas on campus by approximately 68 percent and save 42 million gallons of water per year — amounting to a total saving of $141,000 for the University.
“It’s pretty huge when you look at it,” Alexander added. “The total cost of the project was about $350,000. If you look at that it, it’s paying for itself in about 2 years worth of use.”
Maxicom is located at the campus weather station on North Campus, and operates by using “on-site irrigation controllers through telephone and radio signals”, according to an April 18 press release.
Alexander said Maxicom differs from other irrigation preservation systems because it calculates weather patterns and moisture in the ground in order to optimize water usage, rather than depending on a timer system. Each sprinkler point has a monitor that tracks various measures such as rainfall, wind and temperature, which are calculated at the campus weather station.
Alexander said because most systems rely on humans to power the system on and off, they often fail to check weather conditions and leave sprinklers on when they’re not needed, amassing vast amounts of water wastage.
“It could be raining all night and the thing is still out there sprinkling,” Alexander said. “So with (Maxicom), if it starts raining the system shuts itself off and then recalculates how much water is needed based on the moisture in the area.”
The new system has the potential to develop across multiple areas around campus, Alexander said, adding that the program “brings watering grass areas into the 21st century.”
In addition to the Maxicom project, Alexander said the University has also embarked on other campus initiatives to promote increased sustainability, including increasing the amount of low-flush toilets and low-flow faucets in campus bathrooms and kitchens.
Alexander added that in addition to saving water and money, the Maxicom project is also multifaceted in its sustainable efforts.
“We’re saving water, we’re saving a lot of money, we’re actually reducing the amount of chemicals that we would have to use for controlling diseases in the turf area, and we are saving on runoff that leads to the Huron River,” he said.