Save water, save energy, save money, save manpower

Click to see full image. Remotely directed irrigation controller.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

Click to see full image. Remotely directed irrigation controller. Courtesy HydroPoint.

Moving water around uses a lot of energy in the United States and many other agricultural nations. A Petaluma, California, firm is selling digital control systems that can save both water and the energy needed to move it about. The company is HydroPoint. Their product is called Weathertrak.

I recently spoke with their President and CEO, Paul Ciandrini.

He explained the components of their system. HydroPoint has seven software patents for a system that calculates eighteen variables for any irrigation or outdoor water use system. Things like weather, soil type, grade or slope, amount of shade, crop or plant varieties. Using real-time weather data from the many thousands of U.S. weather stations plus data on the specific local conditions of the customer's landscape can yield a set of projections on how much water is needed. The data is analyzed by Weathertrak algorithms, then directions are sent wirelessly via regular cell phone frequencies to the specific irrigation system controller. Caindrini explains the system works by calculating evapotranspiration per square kilometer and has a dependable moisture replenishment model.

HydroPoint works closely with Toro, a major irrigation component maker, to provide the whole system including the smart controllers. In remote areas the controllers can be solar-powered, another green aspect. Exactly the right amount of water is applied to the field or landscape. Successful crops or lanscaping. Less water running down the gutter, or into the ditch. No shallow lakes at the back of the parking lot.

Ciandrini notes that in severe drought situations the system become even more valuable. For example, a large landscape outside a corporate headquarters could let the grass die off, but keep a maintenance level of water for oaks or palms.

Current customers include Coca-Cola, WalMart, San Fernando, Google, Kohl's, Lockheed, McDonald's, Jack-in-the-Box, Loews.

Ciandrini pointed out that 58% of the urban water use goes onto landscape, and that waste can range from 30% to 300%. Much that through over-watering. Some through undetected leaks. HydroPoint is focused on stopping that urban waste as well as working with irrigation users to curtail agricultural water waste. Every gallon of water NOT pumped means a concomitant savings on energy costs as well. In addition for many irrigation systems, WeatherTrak can reduce the number of man hours, truck circuits driven, and even help note leaks or irrigation system weaknesses.

Ciandrini says the ROI on their WeatherTrak system can be 18-24 months for most customers. HydroPoint's stats show: in 2007 alone, 15,000 WeatherTRAK subscribers saved over 6.7 billion gallons of water, 26.9 million kilowatt hours of power and 36.1 million pounds of CO2 while they returned $60 million to their bottom lines. They expect their 2008 customer base to be 100% larger with the increase in savings that will bring.

HydroPoint is a privately-owned corporation and does business globally. They have projects underway in drought-plagued Australia and expect to see business growth in the Mideast as well. Their headquarters and main servers are in Petaluma, with full redunancy of the system in Utah.

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