Irrigation & Water Conservation

Irrigation and Water Conservation

The University of Texas at Austin uses a central irrigation system to assist in managing the irrigation usage across campus. Water conservation is a top priority for the irrigation section of Landscape Services. We strive to irrigate using only the amount of water needed to keep plants healthy.

The Main Campus central irrigation system detects breaks in the system and shuts down leaks within minutes, saving over 10 million gallons of water in 2012 with just that one feature. Since the implementation of the central irrigation system and new irrigation practices, irrigation usage on campus on the automated irrigation systems has dropped by 66%, resulting in annual savings of over 100 million gallons.

The university understands the usefulness of the automated irrigation usage data collected, and irrigation staff members have posted the data in the dashboard below for anyone to access. After accessing the dashboard (see "View the dashboard" button below), click on the image to interact with the irrigation data across campus. Rainfall data from 2011 to present are also available from the three rain gauges on the Main Campus.

Awards

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UT Austin winners of a 2017 Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the TCEQ
UT Austin: Winners of a 2017 Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for water conservation

Irrigation Dashboard

Welcome On Board!

The University of Texas at Austin’s Landscape Services irrigation experts, with assistance from our student employees and data analyst, have developed a virtual dashboard to share daily irrigation data with students, faculty, staff and the campus community. This web-based visualization, with rainfall data collected from three rain gauges, allows seamless access to the data to facilitate its use in university classrooms, projects and home environments.

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Rain gauge installed on the University’s Main Campus
Rain gauge installed on the University’s Main Campus

View the dashboard

Please note that the dashboard system is updated on a daily basis.

Why provide our irrigation data as an educational resource?

Irrigation accounts for a large percentage of water usage across the state of Texas and throughout the United States. The EPA states that “As residents of the second most populous state in the country, Texans have a large and continually growing demand for water. According to the Texas Water Development Board, by 2060 the state's demand for water is likely to increase by 27 percent compared to its demand in 2000.”

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Computerized Irrigation Controller
One of the irrigation controllers installed on Main Campus. These are the primary data components of the centralized digital control system.

At the university, irrigation was targeted in 2009 as an important part of campus water conservation efforts. As a result, in November 2011, the university installed a new irrigation system and centralized digital control center to improve water conservation and avoid energy consumption and related costs. Since 2011, the university has reduced irrigation water usage by 66 percent (more than 100 million gallons annually), resulting in an estimated average annual cost avoidance of close to $1 million, despite a significant drought. This amounts to enough water to cover over 300 football fields one foot deep, or to supply water to more than 600 average family homes for one year.

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Chart showing a reduction in gallons of water used and the approximate avoided cost as a result of UT Austin's conservation efforts from 2012-2018
The chart above shows a reduction in gallons of water used and the approximate avoided cost as a result of UT Austin's conservation efforts from 2012 to 2018

Leading Through Innovation

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Evapotranspiration sensor (cover removed) - one of three on campus
Evapotranspiration sensor (cover removed) - one of three on campus. While providing data on temperature, relative humidity, and rainfall to determine soil moisture evaporation, these smart sensors help us to identify irrigation water saving opportunities.

Evapotranspiration sensor (cover removed) - one of three on campus. This device provides data on temperature, relative humidity and rainfall to determine the amount of water evaporated from the soil in a given area. These smart sensors help us to identify opportunities to conserve water when irrigation is not necessary.

As a part of The University of Texas at Austin, Landscape Services understands the importance of gaining and sharing knowledge and affirms that “What Starts Here Changes the World.” We stand behind President Fenves’ dedication to Innovating Excellence. We are leading the way through innovation by sharing our daily irrigation usage online for a variety of purposes. For example, students will be able to use the data to design rain water harvesting systems for the campus. Faculty will be able to use the data in research projects and other classroom activities. Off campus, homeowners will be able to use the data to learn about plants that require minimal watering.

Our online dashboard is also available as a reference to other universities, government agencies, organizations, sustainability groups, municipalities, or states who may benefit from the information provided. Future enhancements include adding the data from moisture sensors across campus to assist us in evaluating watering schedules. We believe that working together helps us minimize the effects of drought conditions across the state of Texas.

Contact Us

For more information about the dashboard or to have a demonstration for your organization, contact Landscape Services Irrigation and Water Conservation Program Coordinator Markus Hogue via email or call 512-475-7750.