Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply and Audubon International presented the second Water and Sustainability Innovation Award to SSC Services for Education for its irrigation overhaul of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) campus on Jan. 15, 2020. The Water and Sustainability Innovation Award is an opportunity created by Ewing and Audubon to recognize landscape companies, organizations and municipalities for sustainable, water efficient projects.
Each year this award recognizes a project that strives to solve sustainability and water efficiency challenges that help to contribute to a healthy environment, equity (quality of life) or a vital economy. SSC was able to improve the overall look of the UAFS Campus while addressing these three key components of sustainability.
SSC was presented with pretty large irrigation problem in 2017 when they took over the grounds management. Water use was rising, despite no new buildings, leaks were all over the campus and there were issues with the installations and scheduling.
“We started with the basics and fixed all the leaks over the first few months,” said Matt Rich, Grounds Manager for SSC. Rich and his team continued to implement creative and impactful changes, performing an extensive overhaul of the irrigation system over the course of the next couple of years.
One important change they implemented was involving the students with the overhaul. “We involved many student groups at our university. We educated and built systems together in a collaborative effort to understand the problem and to create the overall solution. After identifying all of the irrigation on our 168 acre campus, we started to change the way irrigation was discussed,” said Rich.
“We are using our creativity to maximize the efficiency on our campus. We are combining new integrated technology, such as automowers and smart controllers to control the irrigation system and original practices like xeriscaping. We have created a cycle on internal investments that support each other and help with future innovations that may come available, ” said Rich. As a result, the campus has reduced its water use by 42.6 percent, saving the campus almost $90,000. They plan to invest these savings in additional sustainable efforts, including installing LED lighting and changing to non-potable water.