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Irrigating the american cemeteries


The green spaces of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cover an area of approximately 550 Ha on 24 sites in 10 countries (France, England, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Italy, Tunisia, Mexico, Panama and the Philippines.


Ever since they first began in 1923, after the First World War, and then in 1945, the American Military cemeteries have had the benefit of an irrigation system.  The first systems were very crude rain guns, then rain guns or sprinklers fitted to quick-coupling valves and finally, since the 60s, the sprinklers have been installed below ground level.


Between the 1960s and the early 90s, there were 140 pop-up sprinklers per hectare, but there have been 15 per hectare since 1995.


In 1995, after consulting some of the main manufacturers of irrigation equipment, the Company TORO was chosen as the ABMC’s exclusive supplier and project supervisor.

The company TORO France (SADIMATO) is the technical consultant for all the sites, in matters relating to design, assisting the project supervisor, monitoring the installations and training. In each country, as far as possible, the local agent takes over the running of the project, under the authority of TORO France.

Each irrigation network is designed, implemented and maintained to last 25 years. Having 24 sites, the ABMC invests in the integral replacement of one installation each year, replacing one obsolete network. The total investment for the 24 sites is around 25,000,000 euros. Each year, the ABMC invests 1 to 2 million euros. This figure covers the investment cost (200,000 to 1,500,000 euros, according to the size of the site) and maintenance (wells, reservoirs, water supply, pumps, fertigation, Site-Pro renewal and auxiliary equipment) as well as modifications and compliance with the standards.

The savings made on maintenance costs and consumption are around 30%.

Fertigation, made possible as a result of the sprinklers’ very high coefficients of uniformity, also has a role to play in the savings, by reducing the time spent spreading solid fertiliser and the lower cost of soluble fertilisers.


The durability and low maintenance cost of the sites over a period of at least 25 years is made possible by the long life span of the equipment used. The choice made represents a proven financial saving compared with other technical options that would appear to be more attractive, purely on the basis of their lower investment cost, but there is no guarantee that the equipment would last any length of time.


The scheme has been designed and implemented jointly by TORO/Parks and Gardens Department of the ABMC.  The invitation to tender was sent to local specialist companies. The work is controlled according to the individual situation and the country involved, either directly by the Parks and Gardens department of the ABMC, with the assistance of TORO France or by an independent technical consultancy firm assisted by TORO France or/and by the local TORO agent. The quality of the equipment and work required of the contractors must be of the very highest order, this being the only means of ensuring the long life of the irrigation systems.



All of the irrigation systems are designed to include the following :


·          The water is supplied from wells, rivers, canals and/or by the local water company. One site is supplied by recycled waste water from the public sewerage network.

·          As far as irrigation water is concerned, a number of sites are equipped with systems for recovering rainwater and drainage water.

·          There is a reserve of water stored to provide a supply for at least 2/5 days.

·          A pump house and auxiliary equipment.

·          Site-pro programming systems with remote control by radio

·          Fertigation system + nitric acid injection. The company Platin has been chosen to supply the soluble fertiliser.

·          Meteorological station linked to Site-Pro

·          Moisture sensor

·          Telemetry technology to measure the consumption of water and electricity.

·          Specific « high angle » sprinklers designed by TORO France that spray the water well over the top of the crosses and Stars of David. 


In ensuring the long life of the irrigation systems, the quality of the installation is not the only factor. All of the ABMC personnel have received a number of training sessions in irrigation management and the daily maintenance of the system.  An annual maintenance contract is drawn up for each site with a specialist contractor (generally the firm that built the system) for the upkeep of the pumps and other components.  ABMC has also drawn up a contract with TORO NSN for monitoring its installations. The sites have access to TORO NSN Connect. In order to ensure that its personnel are better trained, the ABMC has recently, within the framework of an NSN contract, entered into an agreement for the sites to be provided with technical assistance. This means that each site will be visited every two years by a team from TORO. During these visits, all of the components will be thoroughly checked; from the water source right through to its end use.


Thus, the water cycle is entirely managed by the Parks and Gardens department of the ABMC.  Each site has a full understanding of the water cycle, with a sense of responsibility.



In 2008, the AMMC had an independent audit of all of its sites carried out by the firm AREO, with the aim of refocusing on and assessing the problems connected with the issues of maintenance, consumption and the financing of these operations. The results have reconfirmed the policies put in place in 1995 and serve to corroborate the activities implemented since that date.