Turf & Rec

Features Agronomy
A start-up checklist for spring irrigation

Complete each opening in detail to avoid callbacks.

February 8, 2018  By Lorne Haveruk

Spring is on its way and there will be plenty of work involved with opening your client irrigation systems. This checklist will help you and your staff to complete each opening in detail so that unnecessary callbacks are kept to a minimum. There will be additions and/or deletions as sites vary.

Remember to manage water wisely and have systems water as required by the plants, not by time. A weather interrupt device should be mandatory for all irrigation that is subject to rainfall.

Water source
Each water supply is to be thoroughly checked in detail for the following:

  • Main waterline still wired shut upon arrival
  • Ensure all mainline drains are closed inside and out (before opening water)
  • Open last mainline zone valve(s) or quick coupler(s) to expel trapped air as line fills
  • Remove wire and slowly open mainline shutoff valve to allow trapped air to escape
  • Once mainline has been slowly filled and trapped air has been expelled, close the open valve(s) and/or quick coupler(s)
  • If there is a dedicated water meter for the irrigation water, or the building’s water is not being used anywhere, and you are sure it is not being used, once the mainline is fully pressurized (full), check to see if the water meter gauges are standing still or moving.  If no movement no leaks are present.
  • If the water meter gauge(s) are moving there is most likely a leak somewhere in the mainline. Search the entire mainline inside and out to locate the source of the leak. Many small leaks are located at the valve locations where the valves are connected to the mainline. A master valve is a fast quick fix.
  • Repair any leaks found and recheck again.
  • Recharge mainline.
  • Make sure that a proper identification tag is installed at the shutoff indicating what the valve controls. Inform onsite personnel how to shut the irrigation system water off.

Each controller is to be checked for the following:

  • Check 110-volt power to controller receptacle is on. Use a multi-meter if trained or plug in a light or a radio.
  • If no power, check panel breaker is not tripped. If still no power, inform owner to have a qualified electrician fix the problem.
  • If there is still no power, run an extension cord to another receptacle to get power to set up system temporarily.
  • Once 110-volt power is OK, power up controller and test the 24-volt post is energized with approximately 24 volts. Do not install battery yet as this will power up the display and you might think everything is working when it is not.
  • If there is not 24 volts inside controller, controller transformer is probably bad. Replace transformer or take controller to service facility.
  • Once power is on and the controller is energized, replace the old battery with a new one that is fully energized.
  • Ensure rain sensor bypass is in bypass while you test system if damp weather, and is reset to active once work is completed and tested to ensure the system will not operate during wet weather.
  • Set controller to correct a.m. or p.m. time. Double check.
  • Set controller to correct day, month and year. Double check.
  • Turn to test program which should allow for a five-minute test of every zone (station) or select a program and input five minutes for every station to be tested.
  • Start test inspection on semi-automatic program and go to first zone.
  • Once test is complete, reprogram controller with current month watering schedule supplied by your water auditor.
  • Record spring start-up schedule on customer schedule record form and record pertinent information.

Zone(s) inspection
Every zone (station) is to be fully inspected for the following noted items:

  • Sprinklers, emitters, rotors, etc. are plumb (straight on all sides).
  • All sprinklers are at the correct height. Not high, not low, not blocked.
  • All nozzles are clear and clean so that they cover the area completely that they have been designed to cover.
  • Extend risers (nipples) above 24 inches are staked and tied off for support.
  • All risers are plumb and will allow the nozzle to be clear of plant material.
  • Replacement sprinklers are as per original equipment to keep system uniformity (how evenly water is spread out over area of coverage) at the designed application rate).
  • Quick couplers are flush with grade or slightly lower and have been cleaned for easy locating.
  • Valve boxes are flush with grade and are clean of debris for easy access.
  • Valve boxes have been numbered to identify the zone number they water.
  • Show client the components that have to be replaced before performing the work so they understand why something has to be repaired or replaced. Communication is key.

Site sketch

  • Create site sketch (if not supplied). Indicate locations for property layout, building, driveway, landscape features, water supply, water shutoff, blowout, controller(s),etc.
  • GPS locate the devices and log-on site plan.
  • If site sketch is supplied, ensure component locations are accurate. If not, correct.
  • Add any information you think should be on file about this customer’s system(s) which will help ensure the service work is performed.


Lorne Haveruk, CLWM, CID, CIC, CLIA, CGIA, WCP, principal, DH Water Management is one of Canada’s leading water resource consultants. Visit www.dhwatermgmt.com. To contact the author directly, email lorne@dhwatermgmt.com

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