Here's a brief look into how irrigation has evolved in Calgary over the years.
The first type of watering systems for parks prior to 1960s was a small service connection to the municipal water supply, with a single underground steel pipe that connected to a typical household tap in a wooden box. A garden hose and sprinkler were connected to the tap and staff would move the sprinkler around the park.
We've come a long way since then – automatic pop-up sprinklers were introduced to some parks in the 1970s and they've been a standard at all sites since the early 1990s. Electrically-controlled valves activate groups of sprinklers and an irrigation system controller that has a watering schedule program operates the control valves, meaning labour is not required to irrigate our parks. Watering is done during the early morning hours when it does not interfere with park, In 1994, high tech Central Control Systems were installed.
Calgary is a leader in municipal water management in North America and beyond. In fact, The City was awarded the 2009 National Water & Energy Conservation Award from the International Irrigation Association for outstanding contribution, innovation, commitment, and achievement in the conservation of water and energy relating to irrigation procedures, equipment, methods and techniques.
In announcing the award, the Irrigation Association commented that "Calgary's parks department has transformed the irrigation industry in western Canada and demonstrated exceptional commitment to using water wisely. Calgary has invested in the latest irrigation technology to maximize the benefit of every drop of water, decrease runoff and minimize downstream effects. Calgary has also invested heavily in park employees, who actively participate in IA's education and certification programs."
What makes us so innovative? The City prides itself on utilizing technology to manage our water resources. A Central Computer-Controlled automatic irrigation system is the current standard for existing and new parks. An Irrigation Central Control system is a computer system that enables the programming, monitoring and operation of an irrigation system from a central location. The field controllers have a wireless radio link to a Central Computer.
The controllers are connected to a hydrometer which allows the water flow to be monitored during the sprinklers operation. If the flow is too high or too low, the controller will stop watering that section and report a problem to the central computer. Sensors at remote sites will stop watering if it is raining of it the temperature has dropped below freezing.
The central computer has a telephone link to weather stations. The daily data from the weather station is collected and the plant water requirement for that day is calculated. The field computers will then adjust all the water programs to match this watering requirement. Some parks use non-potable water for irrigation.
Please refer to the lists of Central Control sites for each Calgary area: