Seasonally adjusting commercial irrigation controllers is important because plants have different watering needs based upon the different seasons and weather. Plants, shrubs, and trees require more water during the warmer months because the plants are more active, but also because the soil dries out faster. We want to keep a consistent moisture level in the soil for the plants to be able to thrive and encourage roots to penetrate deeper into the soil. If proper adjustments are not made, then the soil could become too dry or saturated. Most people actually over-water their commercial landscaping, so reducing the water in the cooler months is just as important as increasing it in the warmer months.
LMC installs, manages, and adjusts several different types of irrigation controllers, but we also have several smart irrigation controllers that automatically adjust the controller run times based upon the specific plant needs and geographic area of the property. One of the biggest problems with these is that they are rarely set up correctly in the beginning. The algorithms are based upon several factors such as: output of the heads on the zone, vegetation requirements, sun exposure, wind speed, and slope of the area. What makes the setup even harder is that hardly any system is ever installed “correctly.” The best way to irrigate is to have vegetation with similar watering needs on the same stations that also have similar exposure to the elements. For instance, we don’t want to water annual color on the same station as turf, nor do we want to water shaded beds on a flat surface on the same station as turf on a slope that is in the full sun. Microclimates are extremely important when getting an irrigation system to perform as it is intended. Licensed Irrigators are regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the purpose of our license is provide irrigation to the plants while protecting and conserving the limited water resources.
A common misconception with a smart controller is that you’re going to save water. As much as we want this to be true and we want to save water from an environmental and financial standpoint for our customers, nothing is ever consistent from month to month, or year to year when considering the weather. So, it is not fair to say we will use less than we did previously. Last month’s needs are not going to be the same as this month, just as this June is not going to be the same as last June. We need to adjust the water based upon the needs of the plants and the weather we currently have; therefore, you cannot set things the exact same every year or every month. With a properly installed irrigation system and controller settings, it may take extra time or money up front, but it will pay off in the long run for your commercial landscaping and water usage.
In addition to seasonal adjustments, physically inspecting and checking the irrigation system is extremely important because no matter how much the controller is set to run, you still need to put eyes on it to make sure it is performing the way it is intended. Irrigation is not meant to be a replacement for rain, but as supplemental water for the plants. If the coverage or performance is not optimal, then there could be a wasted water, or the landscaping may suffer.
I truly believe you cannot eliminate the human factor from irrigation even as the smart controllers continue to become more advanced. There is nothing like going outside and watching the system run to make sure you have adequate coverage and there are no problems that need to be fixed. Again, a part of our license is to help conserve water, so whenever there is a break in the system, we need to be able to identify and repair it as soon as possible to eliminate waste and save the custome