Sustainable Irrigation 
and Water Strategy

Sustainable Irrigation 
and Water Strategy

Water conservation can play a key role in a retailer’s sustainable best practices. One such case study involves Staples’ irrigation and water strategy. Staples has more than 721 sites with irrigation for a total of 25M square feet and 158M gallons of water consumption in its collective properties.

  As competition for water resources intensifies globally, Staples’ water strategies aim to maximize irrigation efficiencies and conservation. The retailer maximizes water inputs like irrigation while minimizing water outputs such as evaporation and runoff. There are numerous factors determining water demand including landscapes, climate, price and weather. The goal is to use water as efficiently at each location mainly through irrigation.

Irrigation Methods and Technology

The five methods of irrigation are surface, sprinkler, drip, center pivot and manual irrigation. Surface irrigation moves water over and across the land by simple gravity to wet the soil. Staples favors the sprinkler method, which pipes a set amount of water and sprays it directly on the landscape. This method helps in conservation since the amount of water can be controlled when paired with programmable, weather-based controllers and high efficiency nozzles.

“In our effort to conserve water, Staples uses scheduled surface irrigation to water intelligently,” said Robert Valair, Manager, Corporate Support Services, Staples Inc. “When soil moisture is low from weather conditions and rainfall, irrigation watering delivers water optimally. It allows Staples to water only as needed to fill the root zone and avoid over watering, which will deplete the soil of oxygen that is important for root growth. This improved irrigation efficiency can often reduce use by 7 to 30 percent.”

Staples and others in the retail industry are replacing existing controllers with “smart irrigation” technology that adjusts the amount of water applied daily to account for landscaping demands. A technician performs an on-site survey and sets up the controller with site-specific information. A local weather station collects site information that wirelessly transmits to the controller. The controller adjusts run-times for site conditions and turf watering requirements. Controllers can reduce water usage by 30 percent. 

Valair also recommended choosing plants that require less water. “Water applied to normal landscapes constitute about 65-75 percent of urban water demand,” he said. “Urban landscaping is a key factor in using as little water as needed by planting the least water thirsty plants and vegetation.”

Case Study of Savings

In an effort to increase water efficiency and sustainability in California, Staples found its distribution center in Rialto, CA, was using 13 million gallons of water annually for irrigation, which is twice the amount of the landscape requirements.

An irrigation assessment was performed that identified several broken heads, lateral line leaks, broken valves and miscellaneous zones that were operating independently of the controller. “Staples worked with the utility to secure incentives that would cover 90 percent of the cost to install new smart controllers and programmed them to operate in accordance with local water restrictions,” Valair explained.  “Additionally, all break/valve issues were repaired, and two new smart meters were installed on the irrigation lines that provided remote monitoring. This ensured water restrictions were being followed and leaks could be identified, and prompt repairs made.”

The improvement resulted in a 4-month payback. Within a year, water consumption was reduced 65 percent, Valair said. “Geographically, there are areas of the U.S., which have severe water restrictions such as California. There are many states and municipalities adopting water restrictions and applying fines that could total thousands of dollars. Staples is constantly monitoring and adhering to restrictions to save water and avoid costly fines.”

By: Rachel Brown

Published: November 19, 2018