by Charlene Burgi
There are some things in life we are more passionate about than others. Topping my list are family, friends, plants, animals and new irrigation technology that saves water. Seriously! Those who know me may say the first four items are a given—but new irrigation technology? Really? To that, I say yes!
The irrigation industry has surpassed everyone’s expectations by how much they have improved the efficiency of irrigation systems during the past twelve years. Their advances can be seen at the annual Irrigation Association trade shows, which display innovative products that save time, money and most important—water. Every year there are new and improved water-saving devices. For example, this past year one manufacturer came out with a product that includes a sensor that is inserted into the lawn. The sensor reads the moisture and sends a message to the controller to tell it to water if the soil moisture is too low. Moisture-sensing irrigation systems may not be new; however, this device works off of the existing controller instead of requiring a whole new irrigation system.
I have a real affinity for smart controllers. Twelve years ago very few people in the industry had heard of them. Studies were done by many, including yours truly, and the general consensus found smart controllers save an average of 25 percent of the water typically used for irrigation. That water savings equates to dollar savings! For that matter, it also equates to saving your plants’ health by ensuring they don’t get too much or too little irrigation water.
Since the first smart controllers were tested, the manufacturers have continued to improve their performance and add new features. Now you have the option of managing your controller from your PC or having signals sent via cell phone from a server. There are devices that can be added to the smart system that will postpone irrigation if it is too windy (since wind can cause the spray to drift away from the targeted area). The controller can be preset automatically to omit watering if you always have a party on the 4th of July, or shut down if there is a break in the line. The features are too numerous to list. I must admit, I am a certified card-carrying nut about these smart controllers.
Given this information, have you considered installing a smart controller to operate your irrigation system? It takes the guesswork out of how long your irrigation must run to sustain your plants for optimum health. The smart controller is programmed with custom settings for each irrigated area of your garden. It wants to know the soil type, the sun exposure, the type of sprinkler used, what type of plants are being watered, and if the area is on a slope. This information is programmed for each hydrozone/valve in your garden! The controller then reads the weather conditions before watering, makes necessary adjustments based on the evapotranspiration since the garden was last irrigated, and then applies the perfect amount of water to sustain the plants.
I’ve heard a rumor that, in celebration of Smart Irrigation Month, MMWD will be teaming up with The Urban Farmer Store and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to offer discount coupons for WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controllers. The WaterSense label means a product has been independently certified to meet rigorous water efficiency and performance standards. This might be the perfect opportunity to invest in a smart controller if you don’t have one. I may make a believer of you, too! Stay tuned for more details next week.
Special Event at Book Passage July 26 to Launch New History Book on MMWD and Mt. Tam
Local author and MMWD Director Jack Gibson will present a new book, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, at a special event on Thursday, July 26, 7:00 p.m. at Book Passage in Corte Madera. The pictorial history (from the mid 1800s through today) tells the story of the formation of the MMWD in 1912 and includes about 200 archival images. The book, written to commemorate MMWD’s 100th anniversary, also explains the founders’ commitment to the preservation of Mt. Tamalpais and how that idea was central to their vision for the new district. Please join us for what is sure to be a fun and fascinating event!