With permanent water saving rules and staged water restrictions in place across Victoria, the need to utilise efficient watering practices is paramount.
The challenge is ensuring that water saving products and devices are widely accessible to the community in both the commercial and domestic sectors.
Senviro Pty Ltd, a small manufacturing company, received funding to develop and trial a low-cost soil moisture sensor to optimise watering systems. The technology base for Senviro products was originally developed by the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Micro-technology.
While there are a number of high end soil moisture sensors available for precision agriculture applications, these are too expensive for some commercial operators and the domestic market.
Soil moisture sensors send a signal to turn off watering systems if the desired moisture level is achieved before the end of the watering cycle.
The sensors also prevent watering systems from automatically switching on when the soil is moist, providing better water management and ultimately saving water.
Senviro, in collaboration with Frankston City Council conducted a two year trial of the subsurface sensor technology at a sportsground in Carrum Downs.
The system works by placing a network of sensors under the surface of the sports ground that are linked back to a control box attached to the grounds irrigation system.
By taking constant soil moisture readings at 10 minute intervals, the sensors tell the irrigation system whether or not watering is needed.
By ensuring that the ground is only irrigated when necessary the Senviro system can override automatic scheduled irrigation, significantly reducing the total amount of water used to maintain a sportsground.
According to Senviro Chief Executive Officer Steve Davis the soil moisture sensor technology has the potential to save millions of litres of water and ensure the survival of community open spaces if deployed on a large scale.
“The results we have seen form the Carrum Downs trial shows that sensor technology allows for the most efficient use of water by giving groundskeepers an accurate measure of the water held in soil” Mr Davis said.
“This essentially eliminates over watering and takes the guess work out of how much water a sportsground needs at any particular time” he added.
The technology is versatile and can also be applied residential and commercial settings for garden irrigation.
Mr Davis believes that the system has enormous potential to save water and ensure the survival of countless urban sporting facilities and open spaces.
“By investing in this type of technology local councils could dramatically improve the condition of their sporting facilities and become far more water efficient,” he said.