Water is too valuable for the cavalier treatment it gets today, especially in the outdoor arena. Here’s what we need to do better … and the smart people who are getting it right.
For centuries, millennia even, we’ve been tending gardens, watering lawns and growing crops. The human condition is, and has been since prehistoric times, one of settlement and husbandry of the land. While the exact methods vary according to era and culture, some of the basic principles and resources are the same across them all – and we’ve become very, very good at using one resource in particular:
Today, of course, we know that water is far from expendable. Christian Bale’s The Big Short character Michael Burry famously predicted the 2008 housing bubble burst, and thereafter invested his money primarily in water. That’s how precious it’s going to become in this century.
Of course, a lot of people aren’t taking this too seriously. We love our hot showers and our green lawns. According to the EPA, “landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.” Moreover, “In dry climates such as the Southwest, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent.”
This is especially devastating news given the fact that “as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems.”
Time to irrigate smarter. Today, we're here to tell you all about the companies that are doing it right. But first ... what exactly is smart irrigation?
What Is Smart Irrigation?
Our water problems are basically endless. Our pharmaceutical use is bleeding into the watershed and unintentionally “treating” aquatic wildlife to a wide array of drugs. Stormwater runoff is rampant in our cities, with repercussions throughout the countryside. Some of our most cutting-edge strategies for managing water, such as blue roofs, are only partially effective at best.
What’s an eco-conscious person to do?
The short answer is “better.” The long answer is “institute some innovative new strategies for keeping our landscapes and rooftops watered without pillaging the Earth’s ever more precious resources, for crying out loud.”
We kind of like the second one.
Smart irrigation definitely sits at the top of our list of solutions, and becomes more important every day. While smart irrigation strategies vary according to the site conditions, technology used, manufacturer approach and personal preference, they all have the same basic intent:
“Unlike traditional irrigation controllers that operate on a preset programmed schedule and timers, smart irrigation controllers monitor weather, soil conditions, evaporation and plant water use to automatically adjust the watering schedule to actual conditions of the site.”
More specifically, smart irrigation systems measure outdoor temperature and rainfall amounts. They then adjust watering schedules according to the type of soil, types of plants, sprinkler application rate and so forth. The result: the right amount of water for the site, day in and day out, no matter the meteorological conditions.
(Okay, so we just wanted to say “meteorological conditions.” You caught us.)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why this is better: We’re not watering when we don’t need to be. This not only minimizes water use, it minimizes that 50 percent water waste that accompanies any time sprinklers or drip irrigators are on. Cloud-based technology (pun intended) helps to manage systems from afar, reducing the need for actual human people to monitor or make adjustments – and therefore increases the chances of effectiveness and automation.
So, yeah. We pretty much lurve anyone who is putting this high on their to-do list. Want to know who they are? Happy to tell you.
The Smart Irrigators We’re Crushing on Today
First, let us acknowledge that many companies are working hard to be more water-wise, whether they sell plants, green roof assemblies, hydro equipment, or anything else. But some people are truly rocking the smart irrigation space, and we want to give them a special shoutout:
- Rachio: Rather than having intelligent irrigation as a subset of their offerings, Rachio is entirely dedicated to the purpose. These geniuses are known for making adjustments super easy through smartphone. Also, their systems simplify leak detection so you can spot waste coming a mile away. Custom schedules can also help you match water schedules to changing weather easily.
- Hunter: Hunter has a long and storied history of watering tech, and it has recently added to its offerings the Solar Sync ET, which monitors weather and adapts all its sprinklers to water-wise, weather-based irrigation systems. They offer a huge array of options, making it possible to retrofit systems rather than install entirely new ones.
- RainBird: Also a company with a long history of watering prowess, RainBird offers timers that help to manage water by sensing the weather and increasing/decreasing water use accordingly. Their timers also integrate with phones to make watering simple.
- DIG Corporation: DIG offers a variety of products for home, professional and agricultural settings. In addition to battery-powered controllers, they also offer solar-powered alternatives that use renewable energy to moderate water flow according to weather and soil conditions, just as the companies above do. They offer a huge range of options specially tailored to different green systems, such as living walls and green roofs.
- Torro: While Torro does support vast swaths of lawn, which are pollinator dead zones and limit the available habitat for native plants and animals, they’re still making strides toward smarter irrigation. Several of their systems can integrate with smart technology and on-site weather stations to assess soil conditions, temperature, rainfall and other factors, then adjust watering accordingly. Considering the acreage involved in many of the operations using their technology, any adjustment to reduce water flow and waste is a positive one in our book.
These aren’t the only folks making waves in the water space, of course, but they’re some of our favorites. We invite you to get in touch with them if you’re considering smart irrigation, or read on to learn how to work with us today.
How Can You Integrate Smart Irrigation Into Your Own Life?
Unlike many of the problems plaguing the planet today, it’s actually pretty easy to make a change in the direction of water wisdom. Installing a smart irrigation system on a green roof or in a garden is merely a matter of letting your green roofer or landscaper know, and working with them to find the right solution.
Are you interested in preserving water and helping the Earth today? Get in touch with the Ecogardens team today.