Centerville firm gives Ogden schools water-management devices
OGDEN — A Centerville company that makes water-management systems meant to prevent water waste is on a mission to give away up to 100,000 of the devices to schools around the country.
On Wednesday, reps from Smart Rain came to Ogden for a ceremony with Ogden School District officials, announcing plans to provide each of the schools in the system with the devices for free. It’s part of a giveaway worth up to $213 million, depending on how many schools ultimately take the company up on its offer.
“It’s happening across Utah and going to happen across the nation,” Jer Bates, spokesperson for Ogden schools, said at Wednesday’s ceremony, held on the grounds of Liberty Elementary, the new school at 3290 Monroe Blvd. that replaces T.O. Smith Elementary.
The gift of the water-management systems — which Smart Rain estimates will result in savings of $7,000 or more per year to users thanks to reduced water consumption — comes as Utah wrestles with a severe drought, noted Luke Rasmussen, superintendent of Ogden schools.
Given the large green areas at some schools, he said, monitoring water use is a good idea. The plans, he added, also fit with the district’s ongoing efforts to act in an environmentally conscious way and conserve energy.
Liberty and several other new Ogden School District facilities, including Polk Elementary, the Ben Lomond High School Athletic Center and East Ridge Elementary, were fitted with solar panels, meant to help power the facilities and reduce their carbon footprints.
The Smart Rain devices — geared to use of water for irrigation — monitor weather and moisture conditions where they’re located, in part through sensors placed in the ground. “It monitors actual condition. It predicts the weather,” said Rudy Larsen, founder and chief executive officer of Smart Rain.
That is, the devices, which connect to watering systems, know if it has rained and will automatically turn off water-irrigation systems to prevent overwatering. Likewise, if rain is in the forecast, the systems will shut off, also to prevent potential overwatering, then gauge conditions after the period of expected rainfall has passed, among other things.
Company officials estimate they can save $7,000 to $7,500 per year in water use, though they don’t come without cost, even to recipients of free devices, like the Ogden School District. The district, like other users, will have to pay a yearly fee of around $750 per device to tie into the software that enables the systems, according to Darwin Smith, the Ogden School District’s energy conservation manager.
Likewise, since secondary water use at the Ogden schools that get such supplies isn’t metered, the district won’t get any sort of monetary windfall by reducing water use, at least for now. Many secondary water users pay flat annual fees, typically through property taxes, for secondary water, regardless of how much they use.
Plans are afoot in Utah, however, to bolster metering of secondary water in the years to come and make users pay for how much they use. At such a time, the Smart Rain device and that water use it curtails could result in monetary savings at schools that are currently not metered. Moreover, Smith noted that six or seven Ogden schools irrigate using drinking water, which is metered, and reducing water use at those facilities would help cut water costs from the get-go.
Larsen said Smart Rain, which is 10 years old, launched the giveaway initiative as a way to give back to the community. Company officials also surprised the Ogden School District reps at Wednesday’s ceremony with a $10,000 donation.
According to the Smart Rain website, it has donated 80 water-management devices since June, which will save the schools that get them $120,000 collectively after a year.