Smart Irrigation Technology Study
The convenience of inground, automatic irrigation systems has resulted in an increase in water demand, overwatering of the landscape, and faster consumption of the groundwater than the natural environment can replenish.
Central Florida homeowners use more than 50% of their household water supply for irrigation. Customers typically set their irrigation time clocks and do not adjust them in response to changing climatic demands or rainfall (they “set it and forget it”). Homeowners with automated irrigation systems typically apply two to three times more water than the landscape really needs.
There is a potential for dramatic water savings by efficiently irrigating lawns and landscapes.
Smart irrigation technology is one of the best means of achieving that. Smart irrigation devices read climatic conditions and the amount of moisture in the soil, as well as rainfall, to determine when the landscape needs to be irrigated and how much water is needed. Research in controlled settings has shown that smart technology for irrigation can reduce water use by 40% to as much as 90% depending on the device and climatic conditions.
Orange County Utilities, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), and the Water Research Foundation have partnered together to study the impact of smart irrigation technology on reducing water consumption in real- world settings. The study is being conducted by University of Florida/IFAS researchers.
A total of 160 homes and businesses are being selected to participate in this three-year study. Two types of smart irrigation controllers will be used: evapotranspiration (ET) controllers, which read temperature, relative humidity, wind, and other factors to determine when to turn on and shut off the irrigation, and soil moisture sensor (SMS) controllers, which read the moisture level in the soil relative to a set optimum water level to determine when to turn on the irrigation system. Check back again to this page to follow the progression of this study.
WHY CONDUCT THE STUDY? Florida consumes more freshwater than any other state east of the Mississippi River and uses the most groundwater in the United States. In Florida, the average household uses 71% of the total household water for irrigation—in Orange County, that number is closer to 50%.
Studies conducted in Florida show that the average inground irrigation system is operating at 40-45% efficiency.
It has also been documented that automated residential irrigation systems result in substantial amounts of wasted water with homeowners applying two to three times more water than the landscape plants require.
Orange County Utilities has found that customers typically set their irrigation time clocks and do not adjust them in response to changing climatic demands or rainfall (they “set it and forget it”).
In Florida, about 50% of the homes with inground irrigation systems have irrigation clocks with set duration (run) times that are too long, are operating too frequently, or both.