Premium content from Denver Business Journal – by Cathy Proctor / 28 Oct 10
A small, private Longmont company sees a big future for its innovative, underground irrigation system that it claims cuts water use as much as 60 percent compared to standard overhead sprinklers.
Irrigation Water Technologies Inc. (IWTI) sells and distributes the KISSS (Kapillary Irrigation SubSurface Systems) watering system in North America. An Australian company with a similar name, Irrigation Water Technologies Australia, makes the patented system, which consists of a flexible water tube sandwiched with a plastic strip on the bottom and a strip of felt-like material on the top.
A modest economic recovery would make IWTI profitable in 2011, said Dave Hunter, president and CEO.
“We operate in a green, sustainable conservation space that’s spurred by population growth and water shortages,” Hunter said. “‘I don’t see that easing up. Water is going to be the next battleground after oil.”
Traditional overhead sprinklers lose water to evaporation and runoff. But KISSS system water winds up in the soil. It seeps out of the tube, which is buried up to 12 inches underground, through the felt and into the soil — using the capillary action of the felt and dirt to spread water slowly and widely to the roots of grass, trees or ornamental plants.
KISSS also avoids problems associated with drip irrigation systems, such as water pooling around the tubes, or roots growing into the tubes and clogging the water flow, said Mike Croy, IWTI’s vice president of sales for North America.
The system has been used to water athletic fields, commercial and public gardens, street medians and plants in green roofs, such as on the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., and the Target Center in Minneapolis, Hunter said.
The tubes can feed water, fertilizer or pesticides into the soil for roots, and its underground location means players can use athletic fields while the system runs, Croy said.
“It saves water and gets as good or better coverage [for the root systems] as traditional irrigation systems,” Hunter said.
The private company started in North America in 2007 and has 15 employees, up from 11 a year ago. Its 2009 revenue was “in the six figures” for 2009, and expected to double in 2010, Hunter said.
Making goods in Longmont
IWTI expects to close a Longmont manufacturing agreement with the Australian company, to start in early 2011. The Longmont office would make systems for the North American sales territory, Hunter said. He expects to hire two employees initially for that operation.
Hunter joined IWTI in July. The company moved to Longmont from Colorado Springs in December 2009 in order to be close to its CFO, Collis Woodward, who lives in Fort Collins, he said.
The KISSS system costs more than other irrigation systems. A KISSS system for a soccer field would cost 20 percent to 30 percent more than overhead systems, but the higher costs are recouped through water savings in five to seven years, Hunter said.
Water demand for the Clinton library’s green roof, which was installed in 2007, is 40 percent less using the KISSS system compared to what an overhead system would require. That’s according to Mark Anderson, sustainable market development manager for the installer, Tremco Inc., an 80-year-old Beachwood, Ohio, company focused on roofs and waterproofing materials for buildings.
“That’s what I specify for all my systems for vegetative roofs,” Anderson said. “It’s working fabulously. We’ve had no issues at all. Everything is flourishing very well.”
Anderson said he initially thought the library’s roof would last about 15 years, but now believes the irrigation system and plants will extend the roof’s lifespan to 45 years.
The plants protect the roof from weather and sunlight, lengthening its lifespan, he said.
“It’s all about water management,” Anderson said. “It’s truly a water-conservation device that’s easily controlled, not exposed to the elements and doesn’t have a UV breakdown of the components [from sunlight]. Everything is buried, it stays in place and it works.”
Read more: Irrigation company sweet on new watering system | Denver Business Journal