Smart irrigation technology helps conserve water usage By Trisha Gedon Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service s we move into the hottest part of the summer, gardeners may find themselves having to water more and more often in order to keep their landscapes hydrated. It’s no secret that rainfall can be sparse across the state, especially during the later summer months. Because the amount of rainfall fluctuates from year to year, it can be easy for gardeners to over- or underirrigate a landscape, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist. “Improper irrigation can increase disease incidence, waste water and decrease your overall landscape condition,” Hillock said. “While an irrigation system can certainly make it easier to keep your landscape watered, the efficiency of any irrigation system is dependent on several factors, including design, installation and specific site conditions. Because outdoor water use accounts for approximately 30 to 50 percent of household water use, it’s important to make your system as efficient as possible.” Outdoor water savings can be achieved using smart irrigation technologies. Some people may believe technology is found only in computers and smart phones, but technology also can play a big role in saving consumers money when it comes to keeping their landscapes in peak condition. Hillock said smart irrigation controllers and sensors are available that reduce outdoor water use by irrigating based on the water needs of a specific 46 — Oklahoma Country
Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries.
plant when compared to a traditional automatic timer system. “With a traditional timed system, it simply came on at preset times,” he said. “Smart irrigation technology works to maximize irrigation efficiency by reducing water waste, while maintaining plant health and quality. This technology is appropriate for small, residential landscapes as well as large, managed landscapes. If you already have a traditional system installed, don’t worry. There are add-on sensors that can be retrofitted to your current system.” There are two basic types of controllers, including climate-based controllers and soil moisture-based controllers. Climate-based controllers, also known as evapotranspiration (ET) controllers,
use local weather data to adjust irrigation schedules and make irrigation runtime adjustments so the landscape only receives the appropriate amount of water. There are three basic types of ET controllers. First, signal-based controllers use meteorological data from publicly available sources and the ET value is calculated for a grass surface at the site. The data is then sent to the controller by a wireless connection. The second type of controller is the historic ET controller, which uses a preprogrammed water-use curve, based on historic water use in different regions. The curve can be adjusted for temperature and solar radiation. The third type is the on-site weather measurement controller. This controller