balmorhea state park's entry sign (left) and a constructed canal (right)

Balmorhea State Park Comprehensive Irrigation Repair

Priorities: Troubleshoot Prolonged Irrigation System Failure
Challenges: Multiple Failed Prior Attempts – No Plan Documents – One Urgent Scope
Solutions: Trace Underground Faults – Expedite with Key Equipment

Maas Verde received an initial, urgent call from a nonprofit working to donate a handful of trees to West Texas’ Balmorhea State Park. 

The organization needed a fast irrigation repair for an upcoming event held in conjunction with the donation. The planted trees were wilting in the desert landscape, partly because the park’s irrigation system had not functioned since before the current park supervisor’s two-year tenure.

Maas Verde had four days to find a solution for the expedited work order. After that, the team would lean into a repair of the park’s entire system — which tunnels under the park’s turf, asphalt, sidewalks, and even canals for thousands of feet.

(Read the full story here. Or stay on this page for a scope-focused report.)

balmorhea state park pool, overhead view
Balmorhea State Park, home to the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Photo: Wiki Commons

First Mobilization, Scope, and Challenges

Our technicians loaded up material, troubleshooting tools, and digging equipment at our Austin headquarters and moved out via I-10. 

When they arrived at the park, superintendent Torrey Bonham provided an orientation that was as complete as possible. 

Despite Bonham’s substantial efforts, he could not possibly collect all the relevant information, which had degraded throughout previous administrations. Multiple prior contractors had worked on various pieces of the 12-zone system, but none had resolved its functional issues. 

Maas Verde first determined the system needed a new controller, and that an attempted line to irrigate the new trees had failed. The team determined that rather than remediating the existing equipment, installing a new line was the only viable option.

an irrigation dig site

But the system’s large scale forced us to source components from the nearest irrigation supplier, 90 minutes away in Odessa. The 130 PSI pump pushed water through pipe up to 4” — on scale, the network rivals golf courses. 

The team logged overtime daily to complete the first install on schedule. The only way to expedite the process was to trench and dig with a mini skid steer and excavator. 

trenching equipment and a finished trench at the park

Once Maas Verde successfully added the zone, the full system remediation began. 

Full System Diagnostic and Repair

The team could only locate underground faults one at a time. Technicians could only locate the next electrical failure or pipe leak by tracing it downstream from the last one. 

Scrambled componentry representing the layers of prior installs and attempts made the work more puzzling. An emergency sewer repair was the unexpected cause of one severed wire; the tree-planting subcontractor had destroyed several feet of pipe with an excavator but done nothing to report it; miswired solenoids had shorted out and no longer operated. 

a large, buried irrigation valve
Balmorhea’s irrigation system was big, sprawling, and convoluted.

Resolving breakages demanded using a ground fault locator and other specialty tools, but deep landscape experience was critical to success. Reading subtle surface conditions like linear swales and concrete repairs helped the team decide where and how to excavate safely and effectively.

The team solved each fault as it surfaced. Through this process, we began mapping the system and eventually developed an understanding of its full scope and operation. 

pumping overflow out of an excavated hole; wires inside a valve box

Finally, Maas Verde excavated an old valve buried in an obscure location below several inches of natural turf. This hidden component proved to be the last missing link in the system. Our technicians incorporated it into the system, confirmed each zone operated from the controller, and concluded the project. 

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Maas Verde Landscape Restoration (@maasverde_atx)

You Might Also Be Interested In...