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www.greenbuildermag.com 03.2012


SMART IRRIGATION TECHNOLOGIES MEAN MORE GREEN, WITH LESS BLUE


61 By Virginia D. Lee, Guest Columnist (EPA) W Irrigation


controllers such as this one from


Sharpe-Harrell are now included as part of the WaterSense


program. They compensate for uneven


precipitation far more


accurately than simple timed devices.


e now know that irrigation technologies and the people who use them can be smarter about how they use water. In fact, more than half of the water we use outdoors goes to waste, due in part to ineffi cient irrigation methods and systems. More than 13.5 million irrigation systems are currently in place on residential


lawns across the United States, and about one-third of all new homes constructed include in-ground ir- rigation systems. Homes with automatic irrigation systems can use about 50% more water than ones without irrigation systems, because most systems rely on manually programmed clock timers to schedule irrigation. That explains why you often see sprinklers watering in the rain or building puddles around water-


logged plants. With clock timers, irrigation schedules are often set to water at the height of the growing season and might not be adjusted to refl ect changes in the weather or plant watering needs (see fi gure below). And while plant-watering requirements change with the seasons, many homeowners forget or don’t know to adjust their irrigation controller schedules each season. The downside to overwatering isn’t only wasted water—overwatering plants results in shallow roots,


weed growth, disease and fungus—as well as runoff . But irrigation systems and users can get a lot smarter, use less water and support a better looking lawn, (assuming lawns are necessary—see p. 64—Editor).


WaterSense Helps Controllers Get Smart Since 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program has been label- ing products that are independently certifi ed to use at least 20% less water and perform as well or bet- ter than standard models. There are now more than 4,500 diff erent models of WaterSense-labeled toilets, faucets, faucet accessories, showerheads and fl ush- ing urinals on the market. In November 2011, EPA opened up the pro-


gram to outdoor devices when WaterSense fi nalized a specifi cation of the criteria for labeling irrigation controllers that use real-time, local weather data to schedule watering. The WaterSense specifi cation covers stand-


alone controllers, add-on devices and plug-in models that can be used in residential lawns or commer- cial landscapes. In order for a controller to earn the WaterSense label, it must be tested based on how well the system waters plants without overwatering.


WaterSense-labeled controllers must also be able to change irrigation schedules to adjust to local watering restrictions. WaterSense-labeled irrigation controllers have the potential to save American homeowners with ir-


rigation systems as much as 110 billion gallons of water and roughly $410 million on utility bills per year. But like any other smart technology, these controllers only perform well if they have been installed and programmed properly. To ensure the controller performs to its full potential, look for a certifi ed irrigation professional to design, install or audit the irrigation system. To learn more about irrigation controllers, see www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/tech.html, or visit


www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/irrigation_professionals.html for a full list of certifi ed WaterSense irrigation partners.


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