Irrigation management to cool local parks and playgrounds

Temperatures in our cities are gradually increasing. Hard surfaces, along with the loss of tree cover and parklands, are contributing to this. SA Water have partnered with SWAN Systems to help reverse this trend and keep the temperature down in our urban areas. Article by Giulianne Tostes

Irrigation management to cool local parks and playgrounds

As our population increases, so too does the size of our urban areas. Not only are we sprawling outwards and upwards, many cities are undergoing urban infill to accommodate their increasing population, leading to a loss of what is commonly referred to as “green space”. What were once gardens with lawn and trees are now getting replaced with houses, driveways, and hard-stands. As well as losing the visual amenity that these green spaces provided, these hard surfaces absorb, store and radiate heat, leading to an increase in local temperatures. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the urban heat island effect, which can have a negative impact on lifestyle and lead to an increase in energy demands for cooling purposes.

Combating urban heat islands

One way to combat these negative effects is to ensure that there are plenty of public green spaces within our urban areas. These spaces, commonly referred to as “public open spaces” are usually managed by local governments. Over recent years, public open spaces (POS) have been recognised as playing an important role in encouraging communities to participate in physical activities and as a therapeutic tool for maintaining good health and wellbeing. Quality POS helps to shape a community’s character and encourages community members to engage in socio-cultural interactions.

A wet, happy, Shetland Sheep dog jumping up and getting wet by playing with sprinkler water on green grass. A joyful image.

The management of these green spaces is largely undertaken by the relevant local government authority (LGA). Many local councils are actively investigating ways to better manage their POS resources. In South Australia, SA Water, a state government owned water management service, has been looking at ways to keep their built-up environments cool. A trial recently conducted at Adelaide Airport has shown that maintaining soil moisture and cultivated green space can lead to a reduction in ambient temperatures by more than 3°C on warm days. These findings have now been used by SA Water in a trial to help cool urban areas.

Irrigation scheduling increases water use efficiency

Turfgrass is the dominant vegetation type in these urban areas, and requires close management to keep it in good health. Many LGAs find managing their irrigation in the face of ongoing water restrictions a challenge. Irrigation scheduling is known to increase water use efficiency and improve the quality of the turf. Observing soil characteristics soil moisture levels and weather forecasts will all help in building an efficient irrigation plan to avoid over or under irrigation.

SWAN Systems is software for irrigation and nutrient scheduling and is compatible with existing hardware. Users of SWAN Systems can benchmark their irrigation practices based on their field requirements and weather conditions. It is a cloud-based platform that collects data from the irrigation system (including flow meters and soil moisture probes) and then using powerful algorithms calculates soil moisture and water usage for the entire area or just a single park. SWAN will help you schedule irrigation to maintain maximum turf health, while optimising water use efficiency and providing extensive monitoring capabilities.

In partnership with SA Water, SWAN Systems is being used as a tool to help implement smart irrigation principles. Greg Ingleton (SA Water’s Manager of Environmental Opportunities) utilises SWAN to help maintain healthier vegetation in parks and playgrounds. This in turn will result in these areas cooling down, providing public open spaces that residents can enjoy during hot weather.

If you would like to know more about how SWAN Systems can help you increase your water use efficiency, cool your environment and improve your turf quality, please contact us for a free demonstration of the system. And if you would like your local council to learn more about how SWAN Systems can help your area cool down, please share this post with them!