Annual irrigation cost can be divided into two categories: annual cost of ownership and annual cost of operation.
The annual cost of ownership procedure is represented by the DIRTI (Depreciation, Interest, Repairs, Taxes, and Insurance) formula that spreads the actual cost of ownership of an equipment investment over its usable lifespan or investment period. This formula will provide you with the annual cost of the original investment in equipment and improvements.
Annual operating cost will include an estimate of energy cost and labor attributable to the average operation of the equipment. A greater number of small applications will favor systems that have low labor costs, where a smaller number of large applications would favor system with high labor and low investment attributes. Systems with low energy cost primarily for pumping are favored by higher total annual use where low initial cost often compensate for higher energy cost if a low total volume of water is applied annually.
Assistance is available from experts at your state's land grant university and/or local cooperative extension office. Many of these experts are collaborators in the Clean WateR3 project. You should also check with your regional USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for both technical expertise as well as funding opportunities, such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
Check with your state university nursery production specialist on BMP resources and grants that apply to your location. There may be benefits including grants to reduce cost of installing water-saving technologies, and a certification process that can reduce environmental impacts of your nursery. Many free training resources are available online here.
Yes, some do. An online survey conducted by Michigan State University researchers in May 2015, with 1555 consumers throughout the U.S., showed that using recycled water was less important than the plant species and price, as important as using insect management strategies to protect pollinators, but more important than reusing recycled containers.
YES. After several years of research at the University of Maryland and other research sites, we have found that soil moisture sensor technology is a reliable grower management tool. We have been able to demonstrate that sensors can reduce water use and runoff compared with subjective grower decisions.
Soil moisture sensors are already being used to control irrigation in multiple nurseries and greenhouses. The moisture sensors can be linked wirelessly to a central controller and data can be accessed over the internet.
Our past research collaborating with multiple researchers can be found at http://www.smart-farms.net. This research is continuing as part of the Clean WateR3 project.