Measured Irrigation is a brilliant South Australian invention, by Dr. Bernard Omodei of Dot2Dot, for automatically watering gardens using no mains water or mains power. It comes in both an unpowered model, and a powered model- which you could also call solar irrigation, as it operates using power from solar panels. Free power, combined with using tank water, gives big savings both financially and environmentally compared to traditional irrigation systems.
This system is not only an environmentally friendly option for our own gardens, but would be of amazing benefit to isolated or poor communities, for whom the availability of power and water we take for granted, is not a reality. Dr. Omodei is keen to get the word out there about Measured Irrigation, so that its use can be spread into these locations.
Earthwise Harmony speaks to Dr. Omodei to find out more about his timely invention.
How did the idea for creating the Measured Irrigation system come about? What inspired and motivated you?
I did not intend to invent an irrigation system that was more accurate and more reliable than drip irrigation. My initial motivation was to develop a flow splitter that would accurately deliver water to a number of outlets using gravity feed. I progressed from one problem to the next and it was only in hindsight that I gradually began to appreciate the significance of measured irrigation.
What other environmental beliefs, interests and involvements do you have that added to your enthusiasm to create this system?
I have been working as the Fundraising Manager at Trees For Life in South Australia for over 10 years. My interest in irrigation systems was motivated by the problem of watering young native trees without access to mains water or mains power. As the cost of electricity and water increase in the decades ahead, it will be very important to have an irrigation system that can operate without mains water and without mains power.
Measured Irrigation Without Mains Power or Mains Water Video
Give us a brief run through of how your system works.
The volume of water delivered to each sector is determined by the relationship between the irrigation nozzle for the sector and the control nozzle. You can forget about the flow rate and you can forget about the length of the irrigation interval, both will adjust automatically. All that matters is the relationship between the irrigation nozzle and the control nozzle. It’s that simple.
Measured irrigation represents a conceptual breakthrough in the development of irrigation systems. The high cost and high maintenance for drip irrigation systems are a consequence of the erroneous assumption that an accurate and reliable irrigation system needs to be pressurised. Measured irrigation is an unpressurised system that is very accurate and very reliable, and at less than half the cost of a comparable drip irrigation system.
The cornerstone of measured irrigation is the nozzle formula. The relationship between the irrigation nozzle and the control nozzle is represented by the nozzle ratio. In particular, the nozzle ratio is the ratio of the flow rate for the irrigation nozzle to the flow rate for the control nozzle. Because the nozzles are al the same level, the head of water for each nozzle is the same, and so the nozzle ratio is independent of the actual flow rate.
The nozzle formula states that: (the volume of water delivered to an irrigation sector during the irrigation interval) = (the control volume) x (the nozzle ratio)
More detailed information on how measured irrigations works, installation etc. is available here > Measured Irrigation (PDF 6.4Mb)
What are the main problems or challenges you had to overcome when designing the system?
One of the biggest challenges has been to find suitable nozzles. The nozzles needed to be low cost and available in the marketplace, and they also needed to deliver a consistent flow rate for gravity feed irrigation. I had a big breakthrough when I discovered that precision nozzles were used in the electronics industry for applying various materials to electronic circuits.
Another obstacle was that I had no money and any solution to any problem has to cost next to nothing. This obstacle was in some ways a blessing because it forced me to develop a very low cost irrigation system that is both accurate and reliable.
What are your hopes for your business in the future? Do you have any more ideas for improvements or other products on the drawing board?
I hope that unpowered measured irrigation will eventually be used extensively in poor communities in developing countries. Measured irrigation is more than a product. It is whole new approach to water efficient irrigation. This will hopefully mean that many companies and organisations worldwide will develop their own version of measured irrigation, best suited to local conditions. I am currently working on a version of measured irrigation that uses drippers rather than porous hose. I will soon be posting a video on the installation of measured irrigation using gravity feed drippers. Measured irrigation is very flexible and I expect that improvements will continue to be made for many years.
Who have been some of your clients?
My clients to date have been community gardens in Adelaide. I have installed measured irrigation at the Fern Avenue Community Garden within the City of Unley, and at the Prospect Community Garden within the City of Prospect. Later this year I hope to be installing a system at the new Henley Community Garden within the City of Charles Sturt.
Client feedback from Alan Shepard Prospect Community Garden:
" I had installed drip irrigation systems at other community gardens before Bernie contacted me about a new irrigation system that he said had advantages over the drippers. The system has only been installed at the new Prospect Community Garden since November but the gardeners are delighted with the results already.
We are able to isolate different beds so a vacant section of the site can have its water supply turned off. The soaker hoses are not subject to pressure gushes or damage from garden tools. The solar panels pumping rain water from the tanks only operate when the sun shines, I would say there will be less water use compared with the drippers at the other gardens. It clearly was a good choice and has environmental benefits too. "
Do you have any memorable moments from your work with clients that you would like to share with us?
The enthusiasm and excitement of clients and others has been extremely encouraging.
However, people associated with the irrigation industry have shown little interest in measured irrigation. This is not too surprising given the multi-million dollar investment in pressurised irrigation systems, and the fact that measured irrigation is less than half the cost of an equivalent pressurised drip irrigation system.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
If any readers are excited by an irrigation system without mains water and without mains power, then please contact me. I do not expect the irrigation establishment to make measured irrigation available to gardeners in Australia, or to poor landholders in developing countries. I need all the help I can get to spread the word about measured irrigation.
Dr Bernard Omodei Managing Director, Dot2dot 5/50 Harvey Street East Woodville Park SA 5011