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Smart Irrigation Controller Technology

How Utilities Can Benefit from Implementing Pilot Projects [Part 1]

We've seen a lot of contradictory claims and had numerous conversations about where to even start when working with this new technology. We want to set the record straight based on our field experience in managing pilot programs. The intent of this series of articles is to provide objective data to help Water Utilities across the country roll out these programs successfully.

What are the best strategies for implementing a smart irrigation controller program? Which customer bases should be targeted? What conservation goals are achievable through a smart controller program?

These are all critical questions to pose when considering a smart irrigation controller pilot program for your utility. For well over a decade, utilities across the country have been promoting water savings through the installation of smart irrigation controllers. If this is a conservation strategy your utility is interested in pursuing, you may be wondering what types of technology are out there and what the best strategies are for a getting a program off the ground. In this 3 part series, we've compiled necessary information and tips to assist you in the initial steps of planning your project. How does it work There are two types of smart irrigation technologies: weather-based controllers and evapotranspiration (ET)-based controllers. Both types work by adjusting irrigation schedules according to certain environmental factors (e.g., local weather conditions, current and historic evapotranspiration, soil moisture, etc.) so that outdoor landscaping watering needs are appropriately met and over-watering is curbed. Unlike a pre-set watering schedule, smart irrigation technology determines an optimal frequency, duration, and soak time for each irrigation zone depending on sprinkler type, plant type, and soil type. What products are available? With so many products out there, it can be a challenge to decide what is the best option for your smart irrigation controller pilot program. Factors to keep in mind when evaluating product options include: product type (weather- or ET-based), price, product performance, manufacturer, regional availability, etc. To give you a better picture of what products are available, the table below provides a comparison of six of the most common brands (Skydrop, Rachio, Weathermatic, and others).

In part 2 of our series, we will be discussing results being seen by smart irrigation controller pilot programs. Stay tuned!

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