Auditing Your Field’s Irrigation System
An irrigation audit measures how much and where the system is watering. STMA recommends the “catch can” method to conduct an audit, which involves placing catch cans in a grid pattern on the field. After leaving the system on for a period of time, you measure the water in each catch can and identify discrepancies between different locations on the field.
Sports field managers should audit their irrigation systems regularly to understand and correct any problems. Even when the irrigation system is performing appropriately, an audit may still reveal other issues causing uneven water distribution.
How often you conduct an irrigation audit depends on a couple of factors. The size of your field is one, as larger fields with more moving parts should be audited more frequently. The age of your irrigation system is another. A new system should be well calibrated at installation but may need more attention as it ages. The general rule of thumb is to conduct an audit every year. Realistically, budget is also a factor. Doing an irrigation audit takes time, and not every facility can afford that every year.
An irrigation audit should examine the entire system, if possible. Auditing the entire system provides a complete picture of how it’s performing and where it has problems. However, some field managers choose to audit just one zone to reduce the time and cost of conducting an audit. You may be able to make assumptions about other zones from the one you audit, but they will be just that: assumptions. To really understand how your irrigation system is performing, you have to test the whole system.
With the information you collect from your irrigation audit, you can adjust your irrigation system and schedule to be more precise. Ultimately, the results of the audit will help you achieve more efficient irrigation, saving water and money. Your ATS rep is available to help you interpret and apply the results of your audit.