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Soil Moisture-Based Control Technologies

Residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation. As much as half of this water is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff, often caused by improper irrigation system design, installation, maintenance, or scheduling.

To help increase outdoor water efficiency, WaterSense issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to develop a specification for soil moisture-based control technologies in May 2013 that will complement the existing weather-based irrigation controller specification.

The majority of irrigation systems use manually programmed clock timers, for which the homeowner, building owner, or irrigation professional schedules watering events and times. Because schedules are often set to water at the height of the growing season and might not be adjusted to reflect seasonal or changes or watering needs, an irrigation system could be watering in January as if it were July. Similarly, manually programmed clock timers don’t adjust for recent weather events, so systems without sensor technologies will water regardless of whether it has just rained.

Soil moisture-based control technologies water plants based on their needs by measuring the amount of moisture in the soil and tailoring irrigation schedules accordingly. Studies suggest that soil moisture sensors can result in water savings of at least 20 percent, potentially saving millions of gallons of water across the country. Soil moisture-based control technologies that earn the WaterSense label will take the guesswork out of watering and help improve irrigation system efficiency.

As discussed in the NOI, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is developing a performance test standard for soil moisture sensors (S633, Testing of Soil Moisture Sensors for Landscape Irrigation)Exit EPA Disclaimer. Over the past two years, WaterSense has worked with the committee to develop a performance test protocol that WaterSense could use in a specification for bypass type soil moisture-based control technologies. The committee has made significant progress toward protocol development and is currently generating performance data WaterSense will use to develop a draft specification, likely in summer 2016. For questions about the ASABE standard development process and timeline, please contact ASABE at travist@asabe.org. For questions about the WaterSense specification development process, please contact us at watersense-products@erg.com.

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Technical Information

Are you a manufacturer or retailer or distributor interested in partnering with WaterSense or finding out more about the development of soil moisture-based control technologies? Please review the soil moisture-based control technologies NOI for more information, or email us with questions or comments.

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