University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
Saving Water with Smart Controllers

UF researchers have been investigating irrigation water savings with the use of smart controllers.

Smart controllers reduce outdoor water use by monitoring and using information about site conditions (such as soil moisture, rain, wind, slope, soil, plant type, and more), and applying the right amount of water based on those factors. 

Using a water controller like an expanding disk rain sensor, along with UF/IFAS irrigation time recommendations, shows a 30% potential water savings during rainy periods and 15% savings during dry periods.

Even better, smart controllers have shown savings potential of 70–90% during normal rainfall periods on research plots and up to 40% during dry weather, all without compromising turfgrass quality. Studies on cooperating homes indicate 65% cumulative irrigation savings over two years.

Earlier research showed that homeowners in Central Florida irrigated on average 2–3 times a week, or 5.9 inches per month. If all new homes had advanced irrigation control, ranging from a rain sensor to a smart controller, reduction in water use could range from 15% (that would be 33,000 gallons a year) to as high as 70% (154,000 gallons a year) per home.

And if this were extended to all new homes constructed from 2000 to 2005, savings would range from 14.5 billion gallons a year to 67.5 billion gallons a year, using a low-tech rain sensor or more advanced controller, respectively. Yes, billions.

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