Maybe Your System Needs Years Of Therapy.

Posted on: March 9th, 2014 by NickMillward Posted in Featured, Uncategorized


I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of empathy for my therapist the other day while inspecting an apartment complex’s irrigation system.  I thought to myself, “There are so many things wrong here, it’s going to take years to fix!”

Often irrigation systems, like children, begin life full of hope, potential, fully functional! Then over time neglect, abuse, apathy set in. Years go by with warning signs ignored. The system, like an impressionable adolescent, falls in with the wrong crowd. Those that choose short cuts, quick fixes, easy answers. The system will be then abandoned, only to fall into the hands of other shiftless cretins that deform and disfigure it through their carelessness and ignorance until  it’s a hideous beast no one wants anything to do with.

Finally a caring site manager intervenes and calls  for professional help. I admit in years past I was also ignorant and overwhelmed by the needs of these ugly wayward children. But, over time I’ve discovered remedies and treatments that can and do work. The hurdle with any kind of rehabilitation is admitting you have a problem, and the process to correct it won’t be cheap or easy.

At the point of intervention, it’s pointless to throw around blame. Groundskeepers come and go, budgets get cut, priorities change.  The cost to reverse years of mistakes and neglect can be impossible for a technician to estimate. For all the obvious problems like mismatched heads, crooked or badly spaced, breaks and trouble visible on the surface- there can be an iceberg of hidden surprises underground.

At the aforementioned apartment complex an entire section of asphalt parking area was added without thought to re-route irrigation lines. Valve boxes were paved over! I try not to take these things personally, but it hurts my feelings.

My approach to undoing the damage is to first do triage. Stop the bleeding- fix the most egregious waste of water. Assess the landscape. Are there mature established sections that no longer require irrigation? Establish what the priorities are. Make improvements that immediately impress the client and build trust.

I do not always favor an expensive  “let’s fix all of it right now” approach. The sticker shock may discourage the client from opting for annual maintenance that will improve the system over time while preventing further deterioration.  Another upside to the long commitment are new innovations and products  introduced every year and the technician’s own growth of experience and knowledge.

The one scenario where I would equate an irrigation system to a pet that needs “put down” is most box-store DIY installations. If I see bad products and design, clearly amateur and store-bought, I say pull the plug. Scrap it and hire a professional to install a real system. The point of connection, mainline, and valves can’t be relied upon to work or not leak.

If you have an old system, call a professional. Like a search for any therapist, it has to be a good fit. Someone you can trust. Someone who will be realistic with your issues. Ask for certifications from the IA. There is help, take that first step…admit you need it.