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Water Conservation Goes High-Tech

2019 has brought us a longer rain season than we have seen in recent memory. With an abundance of wet weather, the thought of irrigation is often pushed to the back burner; however, that is exactly when we should be thinking about our irrigation systems.

Excess rain encourages a wave of plant diseases, and the problem is only compounded when irrigation systems are overwatering. The good news is that irrigation technologies are available to help us make these systems more efficient. From basic rain sensors to full-blown weather data information, the irrigation industry has made great strides in responsible water management, allowing us to protect the health of our plants, conserve resources, and save money.

A rain sensor is a basic piece of equipment that has been available for many years. It is a very simple, affordable, and reliable way to prevent overwatering. Rain sensors simply stop the irrigation system from watering for a period of time after the sensor detects a certain amount of rain. The low cost of this technology is recuperated very quickly in water savings on most irrigation systems. A rain sensor saves an average of 10% of irrigation water usage. As we strive to become more responsible with our resources, it just makes sense for every irrigation system to be equipped with one.

Beyond simple rain sensors, more advanced technology has become widely available that can conserve even more water. Weather stations are capable of taking multiple atmospheric measurements in order to calculate evapotranspiration, or ET. ET is when water is removed from the soil through evaporation, in combination with transpiration through plants and into the atmosphere. Weather station data allows an irrigation controller to calculate how much water has been lost from the soil between waterings, and to replenish only that amount. This type of irrigation water management saves about 30% for the average user.

Even more advanced and interconnected systems are now available. Some irrigation controllers can receive weather data from local stations and use that data to calculate watering. Different versions use Wi-Fi, a cellular data receiver, or can simply be hard-wired to connect to the internet and receive this data. These systems can even be custom programmed to react in different ways to the weather forecast. For example, you can decide to forgo watering overnight if the forecast for rain the next day is above a selected percentage. Over time, these systems can really be fine-tuned to your property, greatly reducing wasted water.

Advances in technology are allowing responsible irrigation to satisfy an increasing demand for resource conservation while saving money at the same time. With rain sensors, weather stations, and forecast-based smart controllers, we can be prepared for increasingly unpredictable weather and make a positive impact on our water use.