DALLAS — Though the Dallas area recently got rain, as far as home landscapes, parks and sports fields are concerned, the drought is far from over, all of which makes professional irrigators jobs more demanding, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“Landscapes have become dependent upon irrigation to survive, which raises challenges for those designing irrigation systems,” said Charles Swanson, AgriLife Extension landscape irrigation specialist.
At upcoming trainings in November, professional irrigators can earn 16 to 24 hours of continuing education units while learning how to use software that will help them deal with such problems, said Swanson, who is one of the course instructors.
Set Nov. 1-2 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 17360 Coit Road, Dallas, the Irrigation CAD Workshop will teach students how to design landscape irrigation systems using a popular computer-aided design software package, Pro Contractor Studio, he said.
“There are other packages out there,” Swanson said. “What’s good about this software is that people who make it are based here in Texas. They wrote the software so that people who do irrigation plans can meet Texas irrigation rules very easily. ”
Registration for the two-day course is $265, and includes break refreshments and educational materials. Enrollment is limited to 15 students. No prior experience with the software is required for the two-day course.
An Advanced CAD Workshop will be held Nov. 3 at the same site. Registration is $165 and enrollment is also limited to 15 students.
“Prior experience with Pro Contractor Studio or attendance in an irrigation CAD Workshop is highly recommended for the advanced training,” Swanson said.
For both classes, students will have the use of individual computers with the software package installed. However, they will have to purchase the software separately if they wish to use it after the course is finished, he said.
From his experience, about half of those starting the class are usually still doing their irrigation plans by hand, Swanson said.
“By hand, I mean with pencil, paper and ruler,” he said. “It can take you anywhere from one to four hours total do a good irrigation plan, and then you have to go back and measure everything and do calculations by hand.”
The advantage of using a CAD (computer-aided design) program is that the software is automatically doing the math as the irrigator lays out the plan on screen.
“You can install a sprinkler and say ‘what’s the flow, friction loss, what size pipe do I need,’ and it does it all for you,” Swanson said. “And then, once you have a plan, if there is something wrong or you need to change something, you can always just go on the computer and you edit it. You don’t have to start all over.
“Another great feature of the software is it can do an uniformity analysis once you have all your sprinklers in place, and it will show you where you could have dry spots from not applying water evenly. This is a problem a lot of irrigators are having to fix this year since landscapes have become dependent on irrigation to survive.”
This means the irrigator saves a lot of time, plus he or she has a professional drawing they can use to market their plan to clientele versus a hand-drawn paper, he said. The software will also produce a materials list to help the irrigator bid out the job.
In Texas, professional irrigators must earn 24 hours of continuing education units every three years to maintain their licenses, according to Swanson.
“As far as I know, there are only two providers in the state who actually are training irrigators on this software,” Swanson said.
To register for either the two-day course or the one-day advanced course, go to https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu and enter the keyword “CAD.” For more information, contact Swanson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979-845-5614.