How does smart irrigation contribute to sustainable landscapes?
Smart irrigation technologies and methods can take many forms, from soil moisture sensors to weather-connected controllers.
Adopting these technologies and practices can lead to tremendous benefits, including water conservation for the end user, says Ian Yarian, irrigation category manager at Ewing Outdoor Supply, Phoenix, Arizona.
“Conserving water goes from the water source all the way up to the controller,” he says. “There are pressure regulating heads, flow sensors, high-efficiency nozzles, stuff like that. But as far as what I think the goal of smart irrigation is going to focus more on is the technology that’s in controllers. I would say the biggest innovation is weather-based programming.”
Yarian says that the practice of water conservation really starts with knowing the landscape where water resources will be deployed.
“It’s knowing the type of soil that you have, knowing the type of plants that are in there, because things like root depth matters,” he says. “There are so many things that calculate in there.”
The benefits of water conservation include cost savings and environmental stewardship, and the savings can really add up.
“If you’re running, for example, 80 psi into a rotor without pressure regulation, you’re losing about 8-10 gallons an hour. I used to make an analogy where I would say, ‘OK, swap out these rotors. Now you bring your pressure down to the proper pressure, which is 45 psi. You’ve got X amount of gallons times four rotors, three times a week, times 52 weeks out of the year. That’s a swimming pool’s worth of water that you’ve just conserved.”
Another easy way to approach water conservation through smart irrigation is to keep an eye out for the WaterSense logo on controllers, he says.
WaterSense is a program through the Environmental Protection Agency that labels two types of irrigation controllers that can help homeowners and businesses make their irrigation scheduling more water-efficient.
The EPA estimates that 50% of landscape irrigation water is wasted due to overwatering caused by inefficiencies in irrigation methods and systems.
Yarian says one of the most common reasons that water resources are used inefficiently can stem from not knowing there are problems in the system in the first place.
“Let’s say there’s a breakout in an isolated area where nobody really goes. You’re not going to find out about it until your water bill comes in. That could be, depending on how they’re billed, at least a month, probably two to three months,” he says. “Imagine all that water. In a serious incident, if you have a major HOA or major commercial job and it gets a break in the main line and you don’t know about it, even in a matter of days, that could be thousands and thousands of gallons of water that are wasted.”
He says that preventative maintenance, along with using pressure-regulated nozzles, drip irrigation where appropriate and smart technologies such as flow sensors and smart controllers can really make a difference in conservation efforts.
Although the benefit might be most obvious to the contractor managing the irrigation system or the homeowner who pays the water bill, adopting smart irrigation practices really have a global effect, he says.
“I look at this as protecting the population because I know at some point in time there’s going to be water rationing if we don’t learn to conserve water better. Now everything’s fine. But I see smart irrigation in a way that my children and their children will be able to have enough water. It’s just all the components of irrigation working together for the betterment of the planet.”