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UT saving water, money with irrigation system upgrade

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TWC News: UT saving water, money with irrigation system upgrade
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The University of Texas Austin campus has about 125 acres of landscaping with more than 30,000 sprinkler heads.

"It's like a little city inside a big city," said Mark Jordan, who works for Austin’s water department.

Previously, if one of those sprinkler heads springs a leak, it could take quite some time to notice, wasting possibly thousands of gallons of water.

"Unless someone saw that water running at night and reported it, it would take at least a month to find that problem and get it repaired," said Markus Hogue, UT Lanscape Services.

A $2 million upgrade to the school’s irrigation system now helps control leaks.

It's a computerized system that constantly monitors and controls water flow, taking action when it detects a leak.

"This new system detects that flow, within a minute, it shuts it down," Hogue said.

The system also monitors weather and evaporation rates.

"That way we put back precisely the amount of water that has been evaporated out,” Hogue said. “We don't over water, we don't under water.”

Maintenance workers fix about 125 leaks a month.

"Instead of turning on or running all the zones to find the issue, he goes straight to it,” Hogue said.

Along with drought resistant xeriscaping and drip irrigation that waters only individual plants, UT has cut its outdoor water use in half.

It's part of an ambitious plan -- cut water use campus-wide by 20 percent.

"This is a great example to follow,” Jordon said. “It's great stewardship of a limited water resource."

UT’s new system is saving nearly 100 million gallons of water and a million dollars every year -- and the old 40 acres is still green.

UT will put all the data from its innovative irrigation system online in a few months.

Other cities and large water users are already studying the water-saving system hoping to make similar improvements.

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