Have you seen your water bill lately? Whether it’s the water bill for your home or your community, odds are your water expenses are going up – and not just a little. In fact, water costs are increasing faster than any other utility, up 54% since 2010 according to the Circle of Blue. For many community associations, water is now the third most expensive line item, and for the first time some homeowners are seeing their water bill coming in higher than their electricity bill.
With stressed and aging water infrastructure across the country needing billions in capital investment, there is no water pricing relief in sight. But don’t treat your rising water expenses like an inevitability – you can make a difference!
Pinpointing Water Waste
We always hear that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a one. In the case of water, the key is understanding where the problem is, or put another way, where’s the waste? According to the U.S. EPA, unlike electricity, 50 to 70 percent of total water consumption in many areas is outdoors. So, changing all the toilets, faucets, and showers only addresses the remaining 30 to 50 percent used indoors. If those facts aren’t surprising enough, the EPA also says 50 percent of outdoor water usage is wasted. While this is an alarming figure to consider, there are solutions that can help.
The Problems with Traditional Timers
Your outdoor water usage and water bill are being controlled by your sprinkler timer – that control box with cobwebs hidden behind the bushes or locked away in the utility closet. Throughout many HOAs and multifamily properties, traditional timer-based irrigation controllers water on fixed weekly schedules that once programmed, are rarely changed. Because of this, they tend to over-water by 30 to 60 percent, which harms plants and creates runoff that can cause costly damage to pavement and walkways. The “brain,” or controller in traditional timers lacks the technology to give you and your landscaper feedback and options for efficiency or to take into account varying types of plants, sprinklers, soils, slopes, and ever-changing weather conditions, leading to wasted water.
How Smart Irrigation Technology Can Help
Progessive communities are increasingly incorporating internet-connected tools for security, HVAC, access, lighting and now for irrigation. Smart irrigation controllers adjust watering to meet the plants’ changing needs for water throughout the year, unlike a typical watering schedule that is commonly not changed at all. Their controllers use weather information, like temperature and rainfall amounts, to develop optimum watering schedules for healthy, vibrant plants and turf. By making adjustments every day of the year, rather than occasional changes, smart irrigation controllers can save 30 to 60 percent of water usage, improve plant health and beauty, eliminate runoff, and put an end to watering worries. State-of-the-art smart control systems go a step further and integrate advanced system diagnostics, measure flow rates to identify breaks, and offer web and mobile access for remote programming, reports, asset tagging, standardized inspection templates, and alert notification.
New capital programs and increasingly affordable technology now make smart irrigation controllers within reach of communities of all sizes. Professional landscape companies are available nationwide with the certifications and training to apply smart irrigation technology to the customized needs of your landscape, often at little to no cost and without tapping into reserve funds. Learn more about smart irrigation controllers by watching this video.