Friday, December 21, 2007

Solano water program helps businesses save resources, money

Friday, December 21, 2007
Solano water program helps businesses save resources, money
East Bay Business Times - by Marie-Anne Hogarth

The Solano County Water Agency is piloting a program that could save the area a lot of precious water resources and local businesses money.

The agency last fall started providing computerized irrigation controllers made by HydroPoint Data Systems Inc. of Petaluma to apartment buildings, corporate office sites and strip malls with large landscaped areas.

"We haven't really gotten a full set of data yet, but the preliminary data we are getting shows that the controllers are working and that they are saving water and money," said Andrew Florendo, water resource specialist for the Solano County Water Agency.

The agency, which only invited selected big water users to be part of the program, is considering opening it next year to more businesses.

When it does that, Florendo said, the agency will also solicit a request for proposals from companies with similar technologies.

HydroPoint's WeatherTrak is a software package that pulls satellite data from 17,000 weather stations around the country to adjust moisture levels and irrigate more efficiently.

It takes into account what kind of plants are being watered, the soil, the slope of the land, the sun, the shade and other green thumb know-how, to avoid over-watering.

"It is essentially good horticulture in a computer chip," said Tom Ash, director of conservation for HydroPoint.

According to Ash, most businesses can expect a 25 percent to 50 percent savings on their water bills with the technology, plus less runoff to parking lots, less water damage to buildings and fewer mold issues.

The program saved Westfield Solano mall in Fairfield 807,000 gallons over a 60-day billing cycle, a significant savings in energy use and water. Others enrolled in Solano County's effort include Kohl's in Vallejo, Winery Square shopping center in Fairfield, and Creekside Shopping Center and Lowe's in Vacaville.

Water for urban landscaping comprises approximately one-third of urban water use, or 3 million acre-feet of water annually. Water runoff also pollutes streams, rivers and the Bay.

Starting in 2012, the state of California will mandate - as part of Assembly Bill 1881 - that irrigation controllers meet certain water-efficiency standards.

Solano County Water Agency has spent $38,560 to date to purchase the controllers and is expecting installation costs to be $16,270, for a total program cost of $54,830. The U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation provided a $15,000 grant to the agency to run the program. | 925-598-1432

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