Soil monitoring to save water in Council parks

LEVEL 6 water restrictions across South East Queensland requires owners and managers of sports fields to ensure efficient use of town water which has prompted Ipswich City Council to investigate an innovative moisture sensing system which may provide the perfect answer in the future.

Conservation, Parks and Sport Committee Chairperson, Councillor David Morrison, said a pilot program using the new system, designed by MAIT Industries Pty Ltd, will soon commence.

The pilot will be on six sports fields including Mark Marsh Oval in Limestone Park, one field at Ivor Marsden Memorial Park, the recently revived field at Briggs Road, one field at Jim Finimore Park, one soccer field at Redbank Plains Recreational Reserve and one soccer field at Suttons Park.

“The system we are installing is designed to monitor soil moisture of the sports fields in real time.

“Essentially, the system is a soil moisture sensor which is permanently installed in the root zone of the field and measures the wetting and drying at the root zone of the turf.

“The system is wired into the irrigation controller so that irrigation only occurs when soil moisture levels indicate irrigation is required.

“This ensures that irrigation only occurs when needed and only in volumes needed to provide the desired outcome.

“During times of severe water restrictions, the outcome is to keep the grass alive and provide a safe playing surface.”

Cr Morrison said additional items to be installed included water flow meters to log the volume of irrigation and rain switches which turn the irrigation off in the event of  rain during an irrigation cycle.

“Powerful irrigation scheduling software will allow Council to set up complex irrigation schedules that would otherwise be difficult or labour intensive.

“This could then be controlled from the computer base or from the field.”

Deputy Mayor and Division 3 Councillor Victor Attwood said the system was designed with an open framework, for both hardware and software, allowing it to grow and evolve over time to suit Council’s requirements.

“We have also done extensive soil testing on all of our fields and believe that where we have similar soil types across one series of fields we can get a reading from one installed unit and water all of the fields according to that reading.

“We believe the new system will save the Council on watering costs as well as improving efficiency.  A one megalitre saving across all of our irrigated fields would save $52,500 a year alone, therefore allowing the system to pay for itself in a very short time,” Cr Attwood said.