Design or Get off the Pot

Article excerpt

Like most any calling, irrigation design combines nuances of creative art with disciplined, proven science. It is called "style with substance." If you want to make a good living, get your education and training and develop some style. If you're trying to make a few bucks, forward it to a professional and ask a finder's fee.

Don't dabble in irrigation design; you make us all look bad. If established standards aren't followed, even the best products can't properly perform, and manufacturers lose confidence with their customers.

Installation becomes a nightmare when flow and pressure aren't considered for designed system capacity, 50-year-old tree roots won't allow a trencher to pass or utility locates don't identify underground infrastructure that can halt a project in its tracks.

Once the system is in the ground, the maintenance contractor looks incompetent because the usual Band-Aids won't solve ongoing hydraulic issues. The property suffers, water waste is imminent, and the community develops a negative opinion of sprinkler gadgetry that doesn't seem to work and runs finite resources right down the curb.

On the other hand, if you've seen enough to know that it's a world that interests you and one in which you can compete, then by all means get your fundamentals and explore your style. It's a noble path with potentially great rewards.

So why listen to a scribbler about some magical path to professional irrigation design? Because, folks, I design, too--I design messages. And just like the ragged blade of a trencher, my mission is to pierce the crust and alter the innards. It's something I always wanted to do, and interestingly worked in irrigation--within my capacity--to get my training.

I spent my high-school summers repairing irrigation on a 100-year-old golf course (needless to say, I had great job security). I also had a great mentor in the course superintendent, who was a firm believer in irrigation automation and progression. He taught me about flow and pressure; coverage uniformity, pipe sizing, electronic valving; and system integrity. The man was wise beyond his years.

While attending journalism school for my fundamentals I worked at the university golf course, which was converting from an antiquated quick-coupler system to a Rain Bird Maxi system.

So I had my journalism and irrigation training firmly in hand when I started working for a large nursery installing irrigation. I spent the next four years planting sprinkler systems and working newspapers as a beat reporter. The newspaper was great journalism experience, but I didn't like the profession much, so I moved into feature writing for green industry magazines. My dual-track training was beginning to pay off. I then joined a "communications firm" where I created irrigation manuals, brochures, speeches, events, commercials, TV shows, posters, calendars and all manner of collateral materials.

Now I spend my days developing strategic communication plans, working in crisis communications, contacting, pitching and escorting media, extracting trade information from experts in the field, and so forth. …