An untapped source of water savings?

How maintaining in-ground irrigation systems can help condos lower utility bills
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
By Corena Cane and Jeremy Harris

Several seasons of wear and tear can impact the efficiency of a condominium’s in-ground irrigation system. Some of the major causes of water waste are: leaks, broken or improper head, outdated control technology and improper scheduling. All of these inefficiencies come at an unnecessary cost, and long-term studies indicate an average of 55 per cent of the water used for irrigation on condominium properties is wasted.

With water rates increasing eight to 10 per cent each year, property managers are under pressure to reduce operating costs by lowering the impact of utility bills. Maintaining irrigation systems is one way to reduce water waste and save money without impacting the health or quality of the landscape. In fact, a well-maintained system improves the property’s appearance by applying the correct amount of water to the landscape.

Who to consult

Property managers can turn to Water Smart Irrigation Professionals (WSIP) for help with irrigation system management. The Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association developed the specialized training and certification program for WSIP in partnership with Landscape Ontario, the Regional Municipality of York and the Region of Peel. WSIP assess these systems to identify efficiency opportunities and demonstrate their associated returns on investment (ROI).

WSIP-certified firms can detect damaged or leaking irrigation system hardware and customize a maintenance plan to help maximize the life of systems. The formal assessment report the firms produce enables property managers to effectively communicate the potential water and money-saving opportunities to owners and condominium boards.

What to expect

The WSIP contractor will thoroughly inspect each zone of the irrigation system to calculate the water use and efficiency opportunities. Following the infield assessment, the contractor will present a detailed report outlining how much water the condominium property’s irrigation system uses annually and how much less it would use if identified efficiency measures were adopted. These values are based on expert knowledge and calculations from irrigation data management software designed specifically to quantify the savings related to the roll out of water-efficient upgrades.

Results to date

Since the program started in 2014, WSIP-certified companies have completed 31 assessments in the York and Peel regions. They have identified average savings opportunities of 57 per cent, valued at approximately 1,000 cubic metres of water per season. After participating in a WSIP assessment, approximately 45 per cent of property managers rolled out water-efficient technologies such as smart or central control systems within a year. Central control systems save an estimated additional 30 per cent of total water use (see Table 1). Irrigation professionals can help managers achieve further savings through ongoing monitoring and water management.

Table 1

Beyond the bottom line

Often property managers and owners base the decision to proceed with a water efficiency project solely on the ROI. Although the ROI is one of the most important factors in the decision-making process, it is not the only factor that should be considered. There are many reasons for a property manager may want to pursue such a project, including:

  • Resident demands: Residents are concerned with rising fees but continue to demand a well-maintained landscape.
  • Building owner demand: Owners may want to “green” their property to attract new tenants and boost resale values by participating in green certification programs such as BOMA BEST, the Building Owners and Managers Association’s Building Environmental Standards, or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
  • Recognition and promotion: Property managers can showcase initiative and creativity for saving water and money for their clients.
  • Corporate image: Avoid watering in the rain and prevent the landscape from suffering due to overly wet or dry areas.
  • Corporate responsibility: It is the right thing to do and demonstrates industry leadership.
  • Safety and maintenance: Protect against safety issues such as slip and fall incidences; these issues need to be addressed regardless of ROI.

The WSIP program addresses concerns about high water use as a result of irrigation. The York and Peel regions partnered with Landscape Ontario on the program to support their goals for environmental protection and sustainable water use by elevating the irrigation industry. As a result, businesses and residents can now access WSIP professionals as trusted sources for water-efficient irrigation services and products.

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Corena Cane is a water efficiency and conservation coordinator with the Regional Municipality of York. Corena can be reached at 1-877-464-9675, ext. 75781, or by email at

Jeremy Harris is a water efficiency specialist with the Region of Peel. Jeremy can be reached at 905-791-7800, ext. 3280, or by email at

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