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Parks Staff Works Toward More Efficient Landscaping

After completion of the QWEL certification program, Parks staff has identified many day to day and long range methods to improve irrigation system efficiencies and reduce the total gallons consumed while still maintaining high aesthetic standards. Town staff that attended the certification work sessions are now qualified to conduct audits that determine irrigation system efficiency, uniform distribution metrics, and have the knowledge for how to improve them both. Moving forward, we are leveraging this knowledge against existing infrastructure (controllers, rain sensors, and limited other smart tech) to reduce water consumption on the ground level. After our budget meetings and other discussions, Parks has developed and gotten tentative approval for a five year plan to implement the overarching strategies and initiatives needed to make a significant impact on water consumption and put the Town of Breckenridge at the cutting edge of smart irrigation system management. The projection for annual expenses is 35k. We plan to fund this amount via operational budget and grant funding opportunities.

In 2023, the first step in this is process will be to conduct a full audit of all Town irrigation systems. A full system audit was last completed in 2014. The audit will provide recommendations for day to day improvements to the systems by operator level staff. We will also be requesting in the RFP for the audit that the contractor provide recommendations on areas to convert from turf to native and areas to xeri scape. Additionally we will request that contractor recommend a design/building code for the Town that will provide irrigation standards for public and private projects. Another factor that will allow us to understand and reduce our consumption is isolating each irrigation system onto its own meter. Currently many irrigation systems are on the same meter as a Town building. This blurs consumption numbers and makes it impossible to track water consumption specifically to irrigation and realize the true impacts of our reduction efforts. We will begin installing new meters to isolate irrigation systems off Town buildings in 2023.

In 2024, staff will partner with local contractors to continue installing meters to isolate off irrigation systems. Town staff will also work with local contractors and devise methods for Town staff to implement findings from the 2023 irrigation audit. We also hope to begin implementing xeri scape and turf conversion projects.

From 2025 to 2027, efforts will focus on controller purchasing, controller installation, and operationalization of other smart technology tools. Purchasing a controller is straightforward; however, fully utilizing them is not. Smart controllers require installation of flow sensors and master valves. Both of these tools need to be plumbed into the system. In some locations this can be a straightforward process but in other locations, this will be time consumptive and potential require removal of concrete/asphalt to access the line and complete the necessary electrical connections. Two other tools that will be installed and utilized are soil moisture sensors and localized weather stations. Moisture sensors work in tandem with rain sensors to ensure irrigation systems turn of when rainfall and adequate soil saturation has occurred. Localized weather stations provide evapotranspiration data which is a critical variable for smart controllers to automatically set and adjust irrigation system run times. Beginning in 2025, the Town will need to begin paying renewal, update, and data plan fees annually during summer months to run smart systems. This will vary on location and be based upon connectivity availability.

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