Water Saving Measures Would Pay Off For Residents and Town

The Palm Beach Civic Association has just completed a research project on Smart Controller Irrigation to see if the latest water conservation technology would be worth implementing in the Town of Palm Beach. The study shows the average water savings for residents using smart controllers could be 40% or more.

The Town Water Committee, Council President David Rosow and Council Member Bill Diamond, asked the Civic Association to help the Town understand more about Smart Irrigation.

Currently, Palm Beach households use a median of 1,343 gallons per day compared to the rest of Palm Beach County where water usages averages a mere 515 gallons per day.
The Civic Association water analysis, confirmed by local irrigation companies, determined that Palm Beachers over-water, using an average 6 million gallons per day.  By implementing smart irrigation, which uses controllers and other techniques to conserve water, the potential savings could be 40% - 60% or 2.4 million – 3.6 million gallons per day town wide.
Saving water and saving money is a win-win proposition. Ultimately, conservation measures by residents could help the town lower the cost of building a water plant for the island – an estimated $160 million capital expenditure. Taxpayer dollars would be used for a new water treatment facility.

 

The cost to install and program smart controllers is from $200 - $700 for residential models and up to $3,000 for commercial models.  Some models have a subscription fee to wirelessly download weather data into the controller.  That fee ranges from $48/year to $300/year.

Some municipalities have a rebate program and the South Florida Water Management District has had rebates for implementing smart controllers.

Note: The irrigation controller is important, but only one piece of the puzzle. Even the best, most water efficient controller cannot make up for poor system design, installation, and maintenance. The focus of our report is on irrigation controllers, but a holistic approach to smart irrigation systems and landscape design and maintenance is required to achieve the full potential of water savings.
 

The Studies

Controlling irrigation for water conservation and quality has been a major focus of governments, businesses, environmental groups, and universities for over 20 years.  Two main technologies have emerged to replace the clock-timer based controller which was invented in the 1960’s.

• Soil Moisture Measurement Based Smart Controllers
• Weather/Climate Based Smart Controllers

Smart controllers (commonly referred to as ET controllers, weather-based irrigation controllers, smart sprinkler controllers, and water smart irrigation controllers) are a new generation of irrigation controllers that utilize prevailing weather conditions, current and historic evapotranspiration (ET), soil moisture levels, and other relevant factors to adapt water applications to meet the actual needs of plants.

Dozens of studies and pilot tests have been completed by independent organizations, universities, and government agencies in the last 10 years since smart controllers have been on the market. 

The results show that weather/climate based smart controllers are more accurate and provide the best water savings.  The range of water savings is 2% – 86%.


Looking into the details, it appears the lower water savings levels were a function of not programming the controllers adequately, fine tuning, and maintaining the programming so they perform for maximum savings.