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Water Conservation Potential of Smart Irrigation Controllers

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  5th National Decennial Irrigation Conference Proceedings, 5-8 December 2010, Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona USA  IRR10-9520.(doi:10.13031/2013.35888)
Authors:   Michael D Dukes
Keywords:   Evapotranspiration, Soil moisture sensor, Irrigation controller, Smart Water Application Technologies, Irrigation Association

In the past 10 years, Smart Irrigation Controllers have been developed by a number of manufacturers and have been promoted by water purveyors in an attempt to reduce over-irrigation. Legislation has been introduced in California and Texas and passed in Florida mandating or incentivizing the use of these controllers. As a result of the interest in these controllers, use is increasing on new installations and retrofits of residential and light commercial irrigation systems. A number of controlled research studies indicate substantial water savings anywhere from 40% to as high as 70% using these devices; however, real world savings in larger pilot scale projects indicate savings typically less than 10%. Reasons for the divergence between the apparent potential savings and realized savings in pilot projects are related to the following: lack of targeting high irrigation users (either a relative or absolute scale) in pilot projects, lack of education for contractors and end users, lack of timely follow-up to assess water savings. In addition, much of the scientific research on smart controllers has been conducted in humid regions where higher potential savings is likely due to irrigation needed only to supplement rainfall. Future pilot projects should include comprehensive educational components aimed at users and base potential irrigation savings on estimated landscape irrigation demand from climatic variables.

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