Bella Collina is an approximately 2,000-acre residential subdivision (with a Master’s level golf course) located in Montverde, in the picturesque rolling terrain of Central Florida. The vision for the community, including the landscape, was not consistent with the modest water allocation that was available through the St. John’s River Water Management District (SJRWMD). Masuen Consulting, LLC was hired to analyze the allocation and develop an irrigation master plan to maximize development potential and ensure the owners vision of a Tuscan‐like landscape was achievable.
The proposed water supply solution required a complex system of sources (Lake Sienna augmented by several existing and proposed Upper Floridan backup wells). These sources were connected together by a sophisticated central control system that made real‐time decisions based upon information received from field‐based sensors (lake levels, flow rates, anticipated demand, weather, seasonal requirements, and system hydraulics). Graphics to explain and support the function and schematic relationship between elements of this proposed system were prepared in order to educate and negotiate with SJRWMD. Following approval of the overall water supply and allocation by SJRWMD, the irrigation master distribution system for both public and private properties was designed.
In order to meet the negotiated allocation, preserving 182 acres of natural vegetation, selecting drought tolerant plantings, minimizing irrigated turf, and a highly efficient irrigation system were elemental to success. The use of drip irrigation in all shrub beds, and turf areas along road right-of-ways, plus rotors in the limited number of larger open turf areas, were required. In all, over 3.1 million feet of drip tubing was installed. With a mix of both sugar sand and fine soils on the site, the size of the project, and the complexity of the system, the selection of a quality contractor along with close monitoring and coordination during the installation by Masuen Consulting, was essential. Masuen Consulting’s extensive and successful experience with low volume drip design, installation, maintenance, and management was critical to realizing the projects objectives.
The master distribution design used a computerized central control system, including a dedicated weather station, flow sensing, lake level sensing and other inputs to coordinate both the demand (irrigation flow) and supply (automated lake level monitoring/maintenance) sides of the system.
(Note: Masuen Consulting recommendations for drip installation included burying the dripline at 4” depth. This protects the tubing from mechanical damage during routine landscape maintenance. However, the client chose to install the tubing on the surface to save both time and money during the installation.)
During the water source investigation, prior to design, Lake Sienna was found to contain high levels of Bryozoa and Chironomid, which are microorganisms that would clog any drip system. To deal with the high concentration of these microorganisms, effective filtration was mandatory at the pump station. Additionally, super‐chlorinated flushes were needed to keep the source water from clogging the dripline and other components. Over 37 flush outlets were designed to recapture flush water and prevent damage to plant material.
Recharging of the lake from several ground wells occurs automatically and only as required based on a predetermined set of parameters and conditions executed by logic in the central control system. This system uses real‐time weather information to set and adjust watering schedules to maximize the use of water.
In the end, the project was successfully developed and an ASLA Award of Honor was associated with the community. The manufacturer of the drip tubing selected for the project created a feature article, as a marketing piece, due to the size, uniqueness, and overall success of the project. Most importantly, Masuen Consulting had a very satisfied client who was able to sell the entire development as he envisioned.
In the words of our client’s site development vice president, Wayne Smith: “Masuen’s experience with large scale irrigation systems enabled Ginn Resorts to achieve our goals. Previous companies had been unable to develop this site because the St. Johns River Water Management District had set a very tight water allocation for the site. Masuen was a critical collaboration partner. They accurately calculated what extent of planting and lawn areas would achieve our design aesthetic but not exceed the site’s water budget. “Their experience with drip irrigation gave us the confidence to place 3 million linear feet of dripline under all the shrub beds and lawn areas along the street. To make such a large system work in such sandy conditions, we needed expert observation of the contractor, too. Masuen’s onsite observation during construction was essential. “Masuen’s experience with large pump stations was also critical for success. Our lake water contained micro‐organisms they recognized could lead to clogging. Their expertise helped us anticipate what was needed to manage for this situation.”
Wayne Smith Ginn Developement Corporation