Irrigation & Water Conservation

UT Austin winners of a 2017 Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the TCEQ

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 and trees healthy.

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.

Our Campus Irrigation System

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.” Landscape Services currently has several properties utilizing reclaimed water, and is working on expanding to additional locations.

Computerized Irrigation Controller

The Main Campus central irrigation system detects breaks in the system and shuts down leaks within minutes. This saved over 10 million gallons of water in 2012 alone. 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.

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

Leading Through Innovation

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.

Irrigation Team

Tim Kihnel portrait

Tim Kihnel

Landscape Supervisor, Irrigation

Tim has 22 years of experience in the field of landscape irrigation. Prior to joining Landscape Services, he worked at Environmental Survey Consulting in Austin as a licensed irrigator and rainwater harvest design practitioner. Tim has designed all levels of irrigation systems including large-scale residential, commercial and civic systems. He earned his American Rainwater Catchment Systems (ARCSA) license through the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) in August of 2020. He is an active member of the Texas Irrigators Association (TXIA) and is also a member of the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of ASSE. Tim Completed his irrigation courses through Water Educational Training Services (WETS), and his backflow prevention assembly tester (BPAT) courses through C2 Backflow Services. Tim is a licensed Irrigator and licensed BPAT tester through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).