In a town where water use can be a controversial subject, it might surprise Rim country residents to learn that Phoenix golf courses and homeowners use information collected by high-tech monitoring systems here in Payson to manage their turf.
The Arizona Meteorological Network (AZMET) operates a network of 27 automated weather stations located throughout the state. Solar-powered sensors on the Payson unit monitor air and soil temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, and precipitation.
"The data is primarily used for water conservation," said Carolyn Watson, research specialist with AZMET. "We can calculate how much water is evaporating, or what's known as evapotranspiration."
Evapotranspiration (ET) is the more specific term for the loss of water from a vegetated surface, such as a lawn, golf course, or field of crops. "The data helps irrigation mangers know how much water to use," Watson said.
Each night, the weather stations automatically send information to the AZMET computers in Tucson. The data is processed and then provided to agricultural and horticultural interests operating in southern and central Arizona. The public can access daily meteorological data and computed variables from on the AZMET website at http://ag.arizona.edu/azmet.
Is the data ignored?
One interesting tool web users will find on the AZMET site is The Phoenix Lawn Watering Guide. This link is provided to help Phoenix residents know how long they should water their lawns to avoid wasting water.
But Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker doesn't think the average homeowner in Phoenix is using the AZMET information.
"Old habits are ingrained. I don't think anyone is going to go out and change their sprinkler timers in response to information they get on a daily bases," Walker said. "Look at the automatic sprinklers here in town that are on when it's raining. We see some of our accounts that are irrigation-only users that will be using the same amount of water in the winter as they do in the summer - unless we call them and remind them to turn them off. Once the timer is set, they don't touch it."
But Walker believes the AZMET data is valuable and should be used, especially within the commercial sector.
"I think anybody - where the cost of water is a big part of their business - should be using this data. Golf courses like Chaparral Pines are good examples. Water is a big cost for these golf courses and that's why they utilize this technology in concert with their irrigation systems."
Walker said Chaparral Pines maintains a very sophisticated system to monitor ET to get the most out of their irrigation process.
The AZMET automated weather station in Payson will continue to provide valuable conservation information to Phoenix residents and state irrigation managers - whether they are listening or not.
AZMET is operated by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Service. For more information call the Extension Biometeorology Program at (520) 621-1319.