Technical Feasibility of a Project

Golf In Cuba: Part I

Written by William Baker, WBA Principal.

There is only one 18 hole golf course in Cuba. It is located in the tourist zone of Varadero, about a two-hour drive from Havana. It is a great layout. The course opened in 1933, as part of the private estate of French American millionaire Irenee Dupont de Nemours. He was the chairman of the Dupont Company. He retired in 1927, when he was 49 years old. Looking for a place to spend his leisure years, he purchased 450 acres of land o the Hicacos Peninsula and started building a retirement paradise.

The home he built there remains part of the golf course property, serving now as a small hotel with an elegant bar and restaurant. It’s a fascinating place, with four floors, 11 bedrooms, three large terrance, seven balconies, and a private dock. Rooms are available for stays at a very reasonable price.

The golf holes along the beach and surf are reminiscent of other great courses in the Caribbean Islands. But the course feels more like a well-kept secret, probably due to the inability for most US golfers to play there for the past several decades.   Current playing conditions would be on par with relatively good municipal golf courses in the States. One can only imagine the difficulty of keeping conditions even at this level with no industry support, or even any Cuban golfers.   About 90 percent of the players are Canadians that venture to Cuba during the cold winter months at home. Others are mostly European tourists.

Several large hotels are on the peninsula, with most of them requiring the purchase of an inclusive package. Smaller hotels and rooms can be found in the little town of Varadero, a couple of miles away. The beaches are very accessible, with white sand and water a soothing color of blue. Lots of small shops and bazaars with numerous booths are along the main street.

The people are fascinated with Americans, since they have seen so few of them. People are friendly and helpful wherever you go. Canadians are common to see in the winter months. They often mistake Americans for fellow Canadians. Crime seems low in Cuba, and this is especially true in Varadero. One can walk in the evening in the downtown area to local clubs and restaurants, without having any anxiety in doing so.

tree preservation programs

Why Smart Controllers Rock

By Lori D. Palmquist, CID, CIC, CLIA, CLWM

Smart irrigation controllers rock! How do I know? I’ve installed 30 of them (12 different models), and I’m seeing terrific results. On the average, I’ve seen them lower water consumption by 40 percent. Smart controllers, also known as ET controllers and weather-based controllers, respond to daily changes in the weather by adjusting either the runtime of the individual irrigation zones, or the watering days, or both.

Smart irrigation controllers have revolutionized the way we water our landscapes. The old behavior of programming irrigation controllers for existing conditions, and leaving that schedule until someone returns to change it, is becoming a thing of the past.

It is a generally accepted statistic that we overwater our landscapes by a margin of 200%. There is a great need for the use of controllers that adjust their schedules daily, in response to weather conditions.

The current trend is toward state legislation requiring weather-based irrigation controllers.

An important point needs to be made here. Inefficient, problem-riddled irrigation components will not magically improve their performance, if a smart controller is installed. If anything, a smart controller will very quickly reveal the weaknesses of an inefficient or faulty system.

When an irrigation system has bad coverage, due to poor design or broken, sunken, tilted, or blocked sprinklers, traditionally we have added more runtime minutes to apply more water, resulting in significant water-waste. Smart controllers are very different from standard controllers, in that they have no feature to allow the user to simply “add minutes.” If you want a smart controller to compensate for irrigation inefficiency, you have to learn how to program it in such a way as to “outsmart” it, as it is programmed to behave in efficient ways only.

There are two sources of weather data that inform smart controllers. One is professional grade, off-site weather stations. The smart controllers that access off-site weather data often have a monthly, small fee for the acquisition and delivery of the data. The other source of weather data is on-site weather sensors, monitors, and soil-moisture sensors. This strategy involves buying the equipment up front, with no on-going, data-service fees.

There are more than 30 weather-based smart controllers and several soil-sensor-based controllers on an approved list from Smart Water Application Technologies or SWAT. It can be daunting to know how to decide which controller would be the most appropriate in any given situation.

Following are some of the factors for you to consider when deciding which controller is the best one for the job:

  • Size of landscape
  • Number of controllers needed for the landscape
  • Budget
  • Ability of a pager or cell phone tower signal to reach the controller (signal strength)
  • Importance of accuracy of the data
  • Whether up-front costs (on-site data gathering) or on-going fees (off-site data gathering) are preferred
  • Whether you are hands-on, or want the installer to monitor and maintain the system
  • Which controller you (or the installer) feel confident using

Good Tip: The best way to determine which controller to choose is to consult with someone in your area who has hands-on experience with a number of different controllers. Contacting a local water purveyor, professional irrigation supply store, or landscape contractor trade organization, are a few possibilities.

Smart controllers are the future of irrigation scheduling. Some states already require them for new landscape installations. There are also many rebate programs offered by cities and water purveyors for retrofitting this technology into existing systems.

Know that there is a learning curve to understand installation, usage, and monitoring of irrigation systems that use smart technology. Many manufacturers offer extensive tutorial videos and literature on their websites. The manufacturers’ reps and technical support crews are also extremely helpful in ensuring that the controllers are installed and monitored properly.

I am having tremendous success with smart controllers, and endorse them wholeheartedly. I also applaud and appreciate the considerable efforts of manufacturers to produce effective and user-friendly systems. I see how proud my clients are to know that they are stewards of our earth’s resources. They’re also happy to lower their water bills. The fact that we can witness irrigation systems responding daily to changing weather conditions is an awesome notion to me. 

Lori Palmquist is an irrigation web app developer, irrigation designer, consultant, and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a strong advocate for water efficiency in the landscape.

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