Remember the early days of VCRs? Invariably, the only things worth watching on TV would come on consecutively on different channels on a night I had to go out.
After pressing buttons on the remotes for the VCR and TV according to the Japlish in the instruction booklets, I would go out hoping for the best.
Very often I came home to find just one or neither program was recorded. And I would mutter something like, “Oh gosh, I cannot watch the only thing worth watching because of the darned remotes.” Or words to that effect.
Eventually, though, the instruction books got better and with some practice it has now become merely difficult to get TVs, DVDs, VCRs and pay TV to work and record, but not impossible. The same might be said for cameras, mobile phones and a myriad of other electronic devices. Difficult but not impossible.
That is, until the introduction of Actew’s water restrictions and the automatic electronic watering system.
A survey of several neighbours, my own experience and some hardware and gardening stores leads me to the conclusion that no electronic watering system on earth is compatible with Actew’s water restrictions, especially when combined with a break over Christmas-New Year.
Stripping off any sprinklers and replacing them with drippers is cheap and easy enough. Adjusting the drippers so they do not cause pooling or run-off is a matter of trial and error (mostly the latter), but eventually you get there. Making the cycle of the six stations combine for three hours between 7 and 10 is difficult but not impossible.
Press button marked Station Times. Hit Next for the correct station. Press Forward or Back to set the time. Repeat for All Stations. Re-read instructions when it doesn’t work. Re-press all keys in correct sequence. Turn to Start Time. Hit Next for Program 1. Re-translate cryptic instructions.
One hundred presses later you eventually get there.
But setting for Odds and Evens is simply impossible. You see, all the system I have seen work on a weekly cycle (though one neighbour has a two-week cycle).
An electronic watering system’s idea of Odds and Evens is different from Actew’s. The system works on the basis that Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are Odd days and Monday, Wednesday and Friday are Even days. This does not correspond with the days of the month.
Some systems allow you to water every second day no matter what. But if you are away in the period before and after December 31 (Odd) and January 1 (also Odd) your system will be out of kilter on January 2.
Moreover, getting an automatic system to take advantage of the exemption allowing you to water lawns makes solving quadratic equations child’s play. At least you know there will be solutions to a quadratic equation. But Actew’s lawn exemption defies even its own logic.
Under Actew’s lawn exemption, Saturday is always Even, even if it falls on an Odd date. Odd, that. Next Saturday is the 27th, which Actew calls Even for watering lawns and Odd for drippers. One wonders who the drippers are around here.
Sunday, of course, is always Odd, at least for lawns. Otherwise it may be Odd or Even, depending on the date of the month.
The upshot is that is you have to return to the electronic box at least once in early January, but more likely once a week, and you will have to re-press all those keys again, with every likelihood of getting it wrong.
And this, of course, is just the time that the Brown Shirts will arrive in a van with number plates beginning “YWE”. Have you noticed how all Actew vehicles are plated YWE. It stands for Why Water Ever?
So here is a suggestion for Actew for next summer — equally frugal as what we have now, but at least workably frugal.
Nearly all systems cope with days of the week and you can program different stations for different days. But none I have seen cope with dates in the month. Actew should forget dates in the month. Instead, the regime should be as follows: Evens can drip water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and water lawns on Saturday as well. Odds can drip water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and water lawns on Sunday as well. No-one can water on Mondays.
Electronic watering systems are set up for that very sort of thing: some watering every second day and some weekly watering. It would mean slightly less watering, but it would be far easier to set up and once set up. My guess is that it would become the watering regime for most people restrictions or not and they would just turn the system off in winter or when it rained.
I was thinking this out the other day when checking the system after seeing some pooling in one part of the garden and some suspiciously wilting plants in another.
I was checking the system station by station when a jet of water from a broken dripper went into the sky. I thought it would be just my luck the Brown Shirts would arrive with search, arrest and seizure powers more than enough for Heinrich Himmler to charge me under Section 5(3)(g) of the How Dare You Try to Save that Exotic Plant Act of 2006.
It then also dawned on me that what these watering systems really need is a remote control.
But even then, I probably wouldn’t be able to get Station One to turn off at 10pm or get the whole thing to shut down if the Brown Shirts arrived and I would be left muttering, “Oh gosh, it appears that this darned remote control and awful watering system won’t comply with jolly Actew’s beastly water restrictions.”