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SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever been driving through pouring rain and looked out your window to see sprinklers watering a massive green lawn? Do you sometimes forget to turn off your own sprinklers when the weather is already doing the watering for you?
According to Utah’s Division of Water Resources, the state’s “water future is one of the most significant challenges facing us today.” To encourage conservation, state water managers recently began offering residents rebates to install smart sprinkler controllers at home and cut back on their water usage.
What’s a smart sprinkler — and how does it work?
Instead of a timed sprinkler system that the homeowner must set to go off at a specific time on certain days, a smart sprinkler system is connected to the cloud and can be controlled from an app on the homeowner’s phone.
It is also connected to weather data and will adjust the sprinkler settings depending on things like rain or heat waves. If it’s raining for a week straight, you won’t see your sprinklers go off — even if you've forgotten about them.
A smart system can also automatically change the amount of water it uses based on what the plants need to grow, which can vary depending on the amount of sunshine, temperature, wind and humidity in the area, said Stuart Eyring, CEO of Orbit Irrigation — a smart irrigation company based in North Salt Lake.
Homeowners that water frequently can cut back the amount of water they use on their lawns by about 50 percent if they install a smart sprinkler system, Eyring said. Though that number is lower for those who don’t water as much.
The installation process is fairly simple too, he added. To install your new system, all you’ll need to do is unplug a few wires and unscrew your old box, then hook up the new one. If it takes more than 30 minutes, you’re doing it wrong, he said.
Here’s what the state will do to help
Most districts in Utah have a flat fee for water usage, so residents can use as much water as they need and won’t be charged extra. This doesn’t give Utahns a lot of incentive to use less water, Eyring said.
The state, however, has set up a rebate program to encourage conservation and will pay for 50 percent of the smart sprinkler cost (up to $150) when a Utahn purchases an eligible controller. That drops the price of Orbit’s standard smart controller from $100 to $50, Eyring said.
Other districts also have programs that offer more generous rebates. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District will pay for 50 percent of the purchase price up to $1,500 while the Washington County Water Conservancy District will do the same up to $500.
For more information about the state’s rebates on water-saving devices, visit conservewater.utah.gov/rebates.
Do we really need to conserve water?
Last year, Utah suffered through a drought that was, in part, to blame for the year’s rampant fire season. This year, the Beehive State’s sitting a bit more comfortably than before, but Eyring said that’s no reason to get complacent.
“We’re in a period of climate change, and you see in Utah that seven of the last 10 years have been below average in terms of precipitation or water that ends up in the reservoirs,” he said.
“So people say, ‘OK, phew! We’re out of the drought!’ And that’s because we’ve got enough to replenish the reservoirs, but … we’re using water from our bank, so we’re depleting that bank account with no certainty that it will fill to that level again.”
A few smart sprinkler suggestions to get you started…
Smart sprinklers may not be for everyone, and some studies suggest that a quarter of smart sprinkler owners feel their lawn isn’t getting the care it needs and end up turning off smart mode and going back to manual.
If you’re interested in trying one out, however, here are a few major brands that will get you started — even if it’s just looking at reviews.
- Orbit Irrigation is based in North Salt Lake, Utah.
- Skydrop is based in American Fork, Utah.
- Hunter Industries is based in San Marcos, California.
- Rain Bird is based in Azusa, California.
- Rachio is based in Denver, Colorado.