Irrigation Systems Future Trends
There are lots of potential changes in store for residential irrigation systems. There are a number of exciting new technologies currently being developed and tested that could change the way we water our landscapes.
Climate Based Irrigation Control
Imagine if your sprinkler system could automatically adjust its program in response to changes in the weather. During hot and dry periods your system would water more frequently and for longer periods of time. After a heavy rain your system would not irrigate at all for at least a day, sometimes more. Sound too good to be true? It’s not that far away.
Several companies are developing irrigation controllers that apply water based on the evapotranspiration (ET) rate. ET is a measure of the amount of water required to maximize plant growth given the prevailing temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, etc.
One of these systems uses satellites and pager technology to frequently “broadcast” a new irrigation schedule to your irrigation controller. Another system uses cable TV wires to accomplish the same task. A third system has a built in ET chip that contains a detailed 20-year history of ET in the region and irrigates based on historical patterns combined with a small temperature sensor.
All of the systems hope to save water by tailoring irrigation to local weather patterns. Once a large irrigation manufacturer such as Rainbird, Hunter, or Toro adopts this concept it is expected this technology will reach a mass market.
Centralized Irrigation Control
While not a new technology, centralized irrigation control has been the exclusive domain of large systems at universities and golf courses. Centralized irrigation control is similar to the climate based systems described above, but typically consists of a small computer hooked up to a rain sensor and several soil moisture sensors. The computer schedules the irrigation everyday based on the amount of moisture currently present in the soil.
This type of system will likely become the industry standard for new irrigation systems in coming years, as the technology is now available and becoming more cost effective. Upgrading is relatively simple, and is worth considering for large irrigated lawns in areas where water is costly.
Advanced Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is practiced extensively in other countries, especially in the dry climates of the Middle East. Israel has long been a leader in the development of drip irrigation technology. Drip irrigation offers many advantages over spray irrigation, but to be successful it often must be integrated into landscape design ahead of time. It is anticipated that advanced drip irrigation technology will increasingly find its way into American residential landscapes in the coming years. Click here for information on drip irrigation.