Going Green through Irrigation: System maintenance tips for water - and cost - savings

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | September 23, 2012

Can going green help the environment and the bottom line? When it comes to responsible water use, the answer is a resounding yes. Proper irrigation maintenance at hotel properties can not only benefit the environment, but can also provide savings on both overhead and incremental expenses. Utilizing efficient irrigation techniques ensures that landscapes stay beautiful without draining unnecessary natural and fiscal resources. Here are some expert tips for installing and maintaining an irrigation system that works for the environment—and your budget:

When it comes to installation, irrigation systems are not one-size-fits-all. Systems must be tailored to a property’s specific needs, especially in areas with either limited water supplies or areas with community-imposed water restrictions. An irrigation specialist can help ensure that a property is covered efficiently and effectively. Sprinkler heads must be installed in a uniform manner to avoid over- or under-watering, and the correct types of sprinkler heads must be used on the property so that any unnecessary areas—including sidewalks and parking areas—are not being watered along with your target areas.

Proper irrigation system maintenance is necessary to ensure that water is being used most efficiently. A poorly maintained irrigation system can lead to a significant amount of your water never reaching its intended target by being lost to runoff, evaporation and deep watering below the root zone. Ensuring an irrigation system is properly maintained will reduce water waste and pollution from run-off and over-irrigation, while improving the landscape’s health by ensuring the correct amount of water is applied.

While irrigation systems should undergo a full system check monthly, weekly monitoring can ensure uncovering any potential problems before they cause significant any damage. As watering is often done during off-peak hours, many problems with irrigation systems go undetected for long periods of time and can result in significant water waste. A monthly system check will ensure that rain sensors are functioning properly, all moisture sensors are programmed correctly and that all filters have been inspected and cleaned and are free of sediment. Failure to properly maintain these individual pieces of the irrigation system can result in excess amounts of water being used, increasing operational costs. It is also important that timers be checked to ensure the landscape is watered on schedule and without waste.

Poor maintenance can lead to a number of problems, which can lead to higher water costs and fees to correct the issues. Ongoing visual checks are key to identifying and fixing issues as quickly as possible. Issues like small leaks can turn into much larger problems if not caught in a timely manner. A small leak can be identified through a reduction in pressure at sprinkler system heads when the system is turned on, or if there is excess water somewhere else in the system. In addition to low pressure issues, high or fluctuating water can cause issues as well, leading sprinklers to mist or fog. In this case, water is not delivered to a lawn or planting bed at the optimal rate. These issues, though relatively minor at first, can cause significant damage to the property if left untreated for any period of time.

Water pressure issues might also be seen in pooled water or soggy patches of lawn in places where such water should not exist, or a difference in sprinkler spray patterns. Uneven sprays within a particular zone are another sign of pressure problems that could be the result of a leak in a valve or pipe. While some leaks are small and difficult to see, they can still cause significant property damage if not treated immediately. A lack of maintenance can easily result in much larger leaks or broken pipes, which could cause drastic problems for hotel properties. The best way to avoid such catastrophic damages is to maintain a strict maintenance schedule.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.