Install or retrofit with smart irrigation controllers

Landscape water conservation practices can reduce water use, save money

Staff report
A graphic describing smart irrigation controllers.

Since landscape irrigation increases water use by 35 to 75 percent during the summer irrigation season, Texas A&M AgriLife recommends landscape water conservation practices be adapted to reduce water use, save money, and still maintain a beautiful landscape. Water conservation is the easiest and least expensive method to make water resources sustainable for future use.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the loss of water from soil due to evaporation and from plants due to transpiration influenced by heat, humidity, solar radiation, and wind. ET is the amount that needs replacing when you irrigate your home landscape.

An ET controller automatically adjusts the amount of water applied to your landscape based on weather conditions. The “smart” ET controller receives radio, pager, internet, or real time signals with evapotranspiration information, to replace only the moisture your landscape has lost to heat, humidity, solar radiation, and wind.

Standard irrigation controllers require users to calculate complex irrigation schedules and adjust runtimes with changing weather conditions. A “smart” ET controller will determine adjustments to the water schedule based on weather conditions.

When considering an ET controller, you should know:

• You still need to determine an appropriate schedule for each zone, just as you would for a standard irrigation controller

• You may not save water. You can only save water if you wasted it before. ET controllers are no guarantee of water savings and savings will vary based on landscape type and efficiency of your equipment.

• You cannot “set and forget it.” Your controller may still need updates and monitoring.

• It’s not a “forever” solution. Leaks, stuck valves, under- and over-watering and other landscape problems can happen with any type of irrigation system.

• Some have monthly fees. Costs will vary with controller manufacturer and service.

Check with your water provider because some utilities are offering rebates for smart controllers.

For further information, contact Mark Arnold, County Extension Agent-Agriculture/Natural Resources, 701 South I-35 E Service Road #3, Waxahachie, or call 972/825-5175 or email: wmarnold@ag.tamu.edu.