Rainwater Irrigation & Remote Monitoring

Total Amount Awarded: $75,000

Final report poster or presentation: View the PDF

Irrigation water is a major contributor to water usage on the University of Washington Seattle Campus during the dry summer months. The University of Washington (UW) is determined to reduce its water consumption as declared by the Climate Action Plan in 2009. UW Facilities Ground Management made significant strides in improving irrigation. Landscaped areas are irrigated through a combination of drip and sprinkler systems connected to an intricate pipe networks that is centrally controlled and supervised through an advanced system of remote monitoring. Irrigation water is purchased from Seattle Public Utilities; however, alternative water sources such as harvested rainwater can provide the necessary water for irrigation. Therefore, this project proposes to monitor for water quality and quantity by constructing a rainwater collection system on UW Seattle Campus. Furthermore, this project will use the collected water to irrigate a small area on campus. The rainwater-irrigated landscape will use a drip irrigation system with a feedback control system similar to the larger irrigation infrastructure on campus. Remote sensors will collect empirical data on irrigation water delivered and soil moisture. The collected data will be used to create a model for how the rainwater harvesting can be used for feedback controlled irrigation systems.

Relevance to UW Sustainability Goals:

In the 2009 Climate Action Plan, the University’s vision was broken into five issues known as the grand challenges. This project falls under the final goal of maintaining and building infrastructure and facilities “to insure the highest level of integrity, compliance and stewardship.” More specifically, this project aims to reduce the amount water purchased by the University of Washington by using rainwater harvest to supply irrigation water. Furthermore by capturing rainwater in a cistern and using it for irrigation purposes, this project reduces the amount of water being discharged into Lake Washington.

Proposal Objective (1): Remotely monitor the quantity and quality of rainwater collected in the cistern and soil moisture to allow for continuous data and more accurate representations of the quantity and quality of rainwater resources.

This objective is designed for Objective 3 (O3) of the Environmental Stewardship & Stewardship Office Strategy Map for 2013-2016 that aims to improve operational performance through measuring and monitoring performance.

Proposal Objective (2): Create an empirical model and design recommendations for rainwater supplied irrigation control systems that can be implement across the UW campus.

This object is aimed to reduce the amount of potable water purchased by UW as well as reduce the amount of untreated water following into Lake Washington through the storm drains.

Irrigation water has a major impact on the amount of water used on the UW Seattle Campus. The Each summer water usage spikes due to the increased amounts of irrigation. Husky Sustainable Storms and other initiatives around campus have proven that stormwater is a problem if not properly treated particularly at the University of Washington where stormwater drains are piped directly to Lake Washington. The intent of this study is to collect data from which an empirical model and detailed design recommendations can be made for larger projects or application on other areas of campus.


Milestones are indicated by an *
*January 15, 2016 – Notification of the Award
Jan. 2016 – Feb. 2016 Detailed construction drawings and collection of engineer’s estimate
*March 1, 2016 Submission of design and construction documents to all University Stakeholders
Mar. - May 2016 – Communicate with Capital Projects and University Architects to clarify project and encourage approval.
Specific remote monitoring equipment and work with CEE IT to setup data collection through University wireless system
*May 1, 2016 University approval of project
May 2016 - Order of cistern construction materials, schedule University labor resources to meet construction timeline, and order remote monitoring equipment
*August 1, 2016 Construction begins
Aug. 2016 Construction of cistern and connection to existing irrigation system.
*August 31, 2016 Construction complete
Sept. 2016 Installation of remote monitoring
*September 15, 2016 – Data collection begins
Sept. 2016 – Mar. 2017 – Weekly manual validation checks of monitoring data
*Mar 31, 2017 – Data analysis beings for model development.
Mar. – May 2017 – Model development and publication drafting
*June 1, 2017 – Submission of academic articles
June 2017 – Presentation at domestic academic conference.

Primary Faculty:
Jessica   Kaminsky
Primary Staff:
Brian Davis
Primary Student:
Leigh Allison

This project was funded during the 2015-2016 academic year.