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National irrigation expert shares water smarts with Alice Springs industry– 19 April 2013

Twenty horticulturalists and irrigation professionals from large organisations in Alice Springs have been learning smart irrigation skills this week from an expert who works with regional Councils across Australia and water-challenged agriculturalists in the Murray Darling Basin.

The two-day course, hosted by Alice Water Smart Homes and Businesses and led by WA based irrigation professional Paul Willmott is training local irrigation professionals in best practice irrigation technologies and techniques to further conserve Alice Springs’ precious water supply.

Some of the course participants are responsible for extremely large gardens, including the Alice Springs Correctional Centre with up to 20,000 square meters (two hectares) of turf, 18 different irrigation zones and extensive native gardens, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) College with approximately three hectares of garden across 3 schools.

“For its location Alice Springs has a surprising number of large areas of parks and sports fields that require a lot of water”, says Mr Willmott.

“Having worked with farmers and irrigators from the Murray Darling basin to the Kimberly region in Western Australia, I teach them the finer points of irrigation to help them keep their water use at a sustainable level.”

“Alice Springs also has its challenges – it is a harsh environment to grow lawns and gardens and I was not surprised to learn that over half of your water use is for gardens and irrigation.”

“People always ask how long to leave their pop-ups on for. Most people think of irrigation in terms of minutes but the weatherman doesn’t tell you it rained for half an hour - he tells you the rainfall in millimetres, and it’s the millimetres applied that counts.” 

“The most important thing for larger organisations to have an efficient system is to get their water scheduling right.”

“Irrigation schedules should be changed whenever there is a significant change in the weather, so about four times a year. You might need to water every 2-3 days in summer but by winter this might blow out to every 6-7 days.

“Its also good to incorporate rain, soil moisture and solar radiation sensors into the irrigation system. These are relatively cheap to buy, easy to use and will do some of the scheduling changes for you.”

Participants are also learning about water balance, root zones, soil textures, weather, plant types and plant water needs, as well as the adaption of smarter irrigation technologies.

Alice Water Smart Homes and Businesses Manager Liz Locksley said, “We wanted professionals to have the opportunity to learn about the latest water efficient irrigation practices, right here in Alice.”

Alice Water Smart has conducted over 1000 Water Efficiency Consultations and identified more than 1,500 million litres of water savings.

Jethro Laidlaw, Alice Water Smart’s Water Efficiency Manager is participating in the course and said “I now have a better grasp on the relationship between water flow, pressure and dripper size and feel confident about applying this knowledge to further help Alice residents save water.”

To put what they learn into practice, the participants audited and tested the existing irrigation system at OLSH College, Sadadeen and have made recommendations to improve water efficiency and irrigation performance for the Alice Springs’ climate.

Ian Clarke the Property Manager at OLSH schools said, “I was interested in the course to learn how to use water more effectively in this climate and keep up to date with modern irrigation techniques. My qualifications are from years ago."

For help on setting up the correct irrigation for your own home or business pick up a copy of the new Alice Water Smart Guide. Visit www.alicewatersmart.com.au for details.

Alice Water Smart is supported by the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative.

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 For further information:

Laurelle Halford, 0417 222 211 or laurelle@creativeterritory.com.au