WaterSense Celebrates 10-Year Mark

Over the past decade, EPA’s WaterSense program has sparked a market transformation all across North America for irrigation products that save water, energy, and money.

The program was recently threatened by Trump administration budget cuts. (See related article, “AWE Fears WaterSense May Lose Funding.”) But that threat is on hold for now. (See box below.)

Let’s take a look at some of the program’s accomplishments in the last 10 years…

Label and Certification Milestones

Since 2007, more than 21,000 product models of plumbing fixtures and irrigation controllers have earned the WaterSense label for efficiency and performance.  More than 5,000 new models earned the label in 2016 alone. Nearly 68 million individual labeled products have been shipped to date. 

Beginning in 2006, WaterSense certification programs have focused on water-efficient techniques and technologies for certified irrigation system designers, auditors, and installation and maintenance professionals. Since then, thousands of irrigation specialists have been certified and gained an edge in the competitive marketplace.

The Three “P’s” — Products, Practices, People

In an effort to reduce the waste of outdoor water, the EPA program has promoted the three “P’s”— products, practices, and people. This includes:

  • Designing water-smart landscapes that are well-suited for the local climate
  • Installing WaterSense-labeled irrigation controllers, and
  • Hiring WaterSense-certified irrigation professionals.

Their efforts have paid off. For instance, in 2016, the number of labeled irrigation controllers increased by an impressive 63% over the previous year.  These new, web-based models allow users to adjust their irrigation systems via an app on their smartphone.

What’s Next?

In 2017, the WaterSense program is focused on product labeling for pressure-regulating sprinkler bodies. The idea is that large amounts of water can be wasted whenever spray sprinklers operate under higher-than-normal pressure. In other words, significant water savings can be realized by regulating this pressure. To this end, the program recently released a draft specification for these new pressure-regulating sprinklers.

Let’s Keep It Going

The AWE is working to ensure that the WaterSense program can continue unabated. But they need help. Which is why they are seeking signers of letters supporting their proposed legislation to keep it going. To join in this effort, click here.

Environmental Protection Agency

Alliance for Water Efficiency

Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

Wi-Fi-Based Irrigation Technology Explained

Are you still in the dark about how to best incorporate Wi-Fi-based irrigation technology into your business?

The national Irrigation Association recently aired a webinar focused on the growing popularity of this technology, as well as the advantages and opportunities it brings to the landscape irrigation market. (See related article, “Internet-Based Smart Irrigation Systems.”) To purchase the IA webinar, click here.

Landscape Management magazine recently spoke with webinar presenters Stuart Eyring, president of Hydro-Rain, and Chris Klein, CEO and co-founder of Rachio. Here are some highlights of that interview:

How They Work

Q: How do Wi-Fi irrigation controllers work?

Chris Klein (CK): A Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller uses the homeowner’s Wi-Fi network to connect to the cloud. That’s where a lot of the process and scheduling takes place, and then that information is sent back down to the controller. You can have access to it through an app on any device you want—a desktop computer, mobile phone, tablet, etc.—and they all communicate with the same computers in the cloud.

Q: Have you seen examples of Wi-Fi controllers being used to upgrade older systems?

CK: Yes, this is happening at a rapid pace. Eighty-five percent of our customers are replacing working controllers, and it’s just as easy as replacing any other controller.

Q: How do you program Wi-Fi controllers?

Stuart Eyring (SE): In terms of programming, the smartphone apps dramatically add to the ease of which programing is done—it’s much better than programming a typical display controller. But there’s a difference in comfort level in terms of where the user base is coming from. There is a transition point to getting people comfortable with this.

Weather Station Access

Q: Traditional smart controllers had their own weather instruments on-site, but Wi-Fi-based irrigation controllers now have access to millions of weather stations. How do they get evapotranspiration (ET) information?

CK: We use a variety of weather data providers and run them through equations to get ET. This process is getting more and more sophisticated. The other cool thing is homeowners can choose a weather station, which promotes continued engagement with their irrigation system.

SE: In our case, we use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service database in the U.S. Internationally, we use a database out of Norway. But it actually can be very helpful to have a rain sensor at the location, as well, because it can improve reliability.

Q: So you can add other sensors to a Wi-Fi controller?

SE: Yes, we’ve seen an increase in the use of sensing devices like weather stations and moisture sensors on-site that improve the quality of data.

Connections, Security and Updates

Q: What happens to the controller if it loses the Wi-Fi connection?

SE: The majority of the data is kept in the cloud, but there is a basic operating program that’s stored on the actual controller. While the controller won’t typically make any adjustments based on environmental conditions while in that mode, it will continue to run. When the connection is reestablished, the adjustments will begin again. This is typical across manufacturers.

Q: How do you protect security in terms of Wi-Fi and passwords?

SE: Security definitely can be a concern to a homeowner when they allow someone access to their network. But there is a difference between a contractor connecting to a homeowner’s network and connecting through the cloud. In an ideal case, the homeowner is sharing an access code through an app that would allow their contractor to control the system through the cloud, but not have access to the homeowner’s network.

Q: What happens if I buy my controller today and in 60 days it’s out of date?

CK: Updates to the firmware and the app happen automatically, so customers always have the latest and greatest version. In terms of hardware, who knows what will happen in the future, but as of now, our Generation 1 and 2 products work the same.

SE: In most cases, you won’t even know the firmware has been updated unless you go in and look at it. 

(The above flyer can be downloaded and customized for your business. Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply offers it to irrigation contractors as a free sales tool.)

Opportunities and Support

Q: What are the business impacts and opportunities that can be enjoyed by contractors venturing into this arena?

CK: There is a great opportunity to impact a contractor’s business by having a number of connected customers. By installing that product and working with them you have a connection with them. You can stay in touch, the homeowner knows where to go for help and it presents an opportunity for customer retention.

Q: What about support? How do you help contractors when they are stuck?

CK: We have a dedicated contractor phone line and can be reached through email and chat, too.

SE: We have noticed that there is really more upfront hand-holding required. But once the Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller is installed and operating, support requirements go down. That’s because of the ease of the interface and how intuitive it is. Getting started can be challenging, but once contractors get the hang of it, it’s really very easy.


Landscape Management

Irrigation Association

What Are YOU Doing to Promote Smart Irrigation Month?

It’s that time of year again…July is Smart Irrigation Month and, as usual, there are many ways  for businesses and consumers to participate in the campaign.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month continues to gain traction each year as consumers and irrigation specialists alike recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides to all of us.

Give This a Try!

Place a few empty tuna cans around your lawn while you’re watering and measure how long it takes your sprinkler to fill them with a half inch of water. Then, try watering that amount of time twice a week, gauge how your landscape responds, and adjust based on weather conditions. Or simplify by replacing your standard clock timer controller with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller.

Smart Systems

Among the strategies being presented to consumers, first and foremost is proper programming of automatic watering or sprinkler systems to deliver just the right amount of water at the right time.

Additional strategies include:

  • Proper landscaping, keeping soil healthy, mulching and routine landscape maintenance
  • Investing in an irrigation system that uses the best, most flexible, components, has “smart” controls, and meets code requirements
  • Watering during the evening and early morning to prevent evaporation, taking soil type and sprinkler placement into consideration
  • Maintaining the sprinkler system regularly by adjusting sprinkler heads, repairing leaks and monitoring pressure


According the the EPA’s WaterSense website, adopting water–savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending our communities’ water supplies, especially during peak use. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers/distributors, and utilities to bring high-performing, water-efficient products to the marketplace.

WaterSense also partners with professional certifying organizations to promote water–efficient landscape irrigation practices. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a total of 1.5 trillion gallons of water, resulting in more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bill savings.

Smart Ideas

Since July is the peak month for water consumption, the national Smart Irrigation campaign is also encouraging industrial firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies.   Here are just a few of the many  “Smart Ideas” to promote the national campaign that are listed on the Irrigation Association website:

  • Add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your website, ads, customer presentations, field signs, invoices and more.
  • Submit a press release or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Ask employees to add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to their e-mail signature block.
  • Host a live demonstration of water-saving irrigation technologies, in the field or at your location.
  • Feature water-efficient products and services in displays, ads, promotions and product demos with the Smart Irrigation Month logo.
  • Use a banner, outside signage or counter sign to encourage customers to ask about smart irrigation.

smart irrigation month

  • Make smart irrigation the theme of sales calls.
  • Give awards to customers and/or business partners who promote water-efficient practices.
  • Volunteer to speak to a local homeowner association, garden club or civic group.
  • Distribute copies of the Smart Irrigation Month coloring book at a farmers market or county fair.
  • Ask your local radio station to play a public service announcement, promoting July as Smart Irrigation Month.

Remember…Every Drop Counts! What are YOU doing to promote Smart Irrigation Month? 


Irrigation Association

EPA WaterSense

Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Irrigation Systems

As an irrigation specialist, if you’re not already on the “green infrastructure bandwagon,” what’s holding you back?

The green infrastructure (or GI) movement is growing in communities throughout the U.S.  In its position statement, the national Irrigation Association has officially recognized GI as “a promising new market” for irrigation contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers.

(To access the Irrigation Association’s 2014 webinar titled “Green Infrastructure: The Role of Irrigation in Stormwater Management,” Click Here.)

What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

In a nutshell, green infrastructure utilizes living plant material to create a more natural method for stormwater mitigation. GI tools include vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, green roofs and rain barrel installations.  (See related article, “Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!“)

Why is this an important topic for irrigation and landscape professionals?

Well, for one thing, in our current era of heightened water quality concerns, new state and federal investments are being aimed specifically at green infrastructure.

“The opportunity here is to be a resource for water quality managers and sustainability professionals.” That’s according to Paul Lander (Ph.d, ASLA, LEED AP), a consultant with Dakota Ridge Partners in Boulder, Colo.

“In almost every city across the nation, they’re going to have a whole suite of things on their plates. If there’s an opportunity (for irrigation professionals) to be seen as a resource, the profession’s going to go a lot further, and we’ll get more resources coming our way to help with this green infrastructure movement.”

It’s All About Runoff

The big issue, of course is stormwater runoff. Particularly with combined sewer systems, where the stormwater pipes connect to the sewage pipes. Combined sewer systems are found in approximately 860 municipalities across the U.S.. These are mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes.

Not only is this a waste of stormwater, but the sewage treatment facilities are not designed to handle the large volume of water that occurs from a rain event. With as little as a 1/4 inch of rainwater, the combined systems will overflow the rainwater mixed with untreated sewerage into the local waterways.

You may recall when Ohio’s stormwater runoff issues became national news in 2014. That’s when the pollution in Lake Erie forced the City of Toledo to shut off its water supply. For three days.

Green infrastructure has been heralded as a more efficient and effective solution to these water pollution issues than traditional gray infrastructure.

For Municipalities and Neighborhoods

John  Farner, Government and Public Affairs Director for the Irrigation Association, recently explained that, at the municipal or county level, GI refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water for the community.  (See related article, “Can the Ohio River Be Saved?”)

With neighborhoods, on the other hand, GI refers to stormwater systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water. Many states and municipalities (such as Philadelphia) have adopted holistic approaches to watershed management that strongly feature green infrastructure. 

Unfortunately, landscape overwatering is commonplace, Lander said. And it’s the bane of water quality managers. These local, state and federal officials are tasked with ensuring compliance with regulations to minimize ill effects on water sources.

“Increasingly, nonpoint-source pollution, like irrigation runoff, is coming under scrutiny by these folks,” Lander said. Landscape and irrigation professionals who aren’t familiar with nonpoint-source pollution are behind the times, he added.

Opportunity Missed?

Not only that, but they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to partner with water quality managers in pursuit of GI projects.

“It’s all the little things around us that in aggregate can have a big impact,” Lander said. He believes the onus is on the professional irrigation community to step up and participate.

Why? “Sites need green infrastructure and green infrastructure will need smart irrigation,” he said.


Irrigation Association

Irrigation Market Watch


Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!

With April upon us, we are reminded that every year Mother Nature provides us with trillions of gallons of water. Free of charge. In the form of rain.

Last year, for instance, the storms which pummeled the Carolinas dropped enough water to halt California’s five-year drought. And yet, few of us take advantage of learning how to capture this precious resource.

Instead, it flows off lawns into streams, then rivers, then oceans.

A recent article in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine suggests that, when irrigation specialists build cisterns to harvest rainwater, they are providing their customers with “manna from heaven.”

But they’re also helping to build the water infrastructure of the future. And providing themselves with an additional revenue source.

New Revenue Stream

Paul Lawrence, president of Texas Land & Water Designs LLC, has been installing rainwater harvesting systems for the past seven years, and he’s a huge proponent of the practice. Lawrence feels that, not only is it a good source of revenue, but startup costs are low for the contractor.

“Licensed irrigators already have many of the skills that are required for rainwater harvesting; it’s a real natural fit for them,” he says.

And it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Virtually every house and commercial building already possesses roofing, gutters and downspouts. The catchment system simply takes the rainwater that now flows down the street and stores it for use at a later date.

The Basic Setup

There are several different options for storing rainwater: above-ground storage tanks, below-ground cisterns, or downspouts directed to bioswales. Smaller systems (such as those that capture less than a hundred gallons) can use rain barrels for storage.

Whatever option is chosen, a pump may be required to release the water when it’s ready to be used. Most pumps on residential systems are between one-third and one horsepower. That amount of power is sufficient to pressurize the water for either spray or drip irrigation. The pump can be activated manually, or a controller can be used to automate the rainwater flow into the irrigation system.

A couple of important considerations:

  • Sanitation should be the first consideration. At the very least, a screen should be placed in the gutter over the downspout. This will keep out large particulate matter, large solids and leaves.
  • Storage tanks must be properly sealed against pests and bacteria; otherwise, the water inside can become toxic.

  • Every storage tank needs to have an overflow device to prevent backup in heavy-rain situations.
  • The overflow device should be fitted with a flapper valve that will close up immediately after excess water has stopped flowing out. This will keep vermin from crawling up the spout.

An Attractive Option

For property owners who find traditional storage units unattractive, more aesthetically-pleasing options are available. For instance, Aquascape, an Illinois-based company, offers its “RainXchange” system, which combines a recirculating, decorative water feature with an underground storage basin.

According to Irrigation & Green Industry magazine, RainXchange offers the same functionality of other storage systems. Specifically, “It makes use of modular storage basins, stackable blocks that are somewhere between milk crates and Legos, which can be arranged in different shapes to fit a variety of application settings. They sit inside a rubber membrane to form a single, water-tight unit underground.”

Contractors can install the RainXchange system under turf grass. An increasingly common option is to install the system beneath a patio made of permeable pavers. According to Ed Beaulieu, director of field research for Aquascape, “This way, the pavers act as a catchment area that prefilters the rainwater before it enters the blocks. It’s very, very efficient.”

The following video demonstrates the installation of a similar underground system by a Texas-based vendor, Innovative Water Solutions:


Closer to home, Rain Brothers, a rainwater-harvesting company based in Columbus, offers system design services throughout Ohio and much of the Midwest.

A simple residential project typically runs between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on a variety of factors, such as size and excavation costs. For instance, if a client’s property doesn’t allow room for heavy equipment, digging by hand will increase the labor time substantially.

Who Are the Target Customers?

According to most irrigation contractors, conservation is the primary motivator when property owners consider installing a rainwater catchment system. Despite the fact that the installation costs them money, these clients are more worried about the long-term consequences of water shortages, pollution and soil erosion.

They may have heard that capturing rainwater is a tried-and-true method of simultaneously controlling runoff and withstanding drought conditions.

“In a residential setting, it’s next to impossible to show an ROI in three to five years,” Lawrence says. “By and large, those clients are doing it for environmental concerns.”

Add It to Your Menu of Services

Rainwater harvesting is a viable permanent addition to the menu of services offered by landscape professionals. As homeowners rediscover this ancient practice of capturing rainwater, contractors will have increasing opportunities to offer their services for installation projects.

Contractors can easily acquire the skills necessary to get started with catchment system installations. And there is an abundance of resources to ensure your success. The national Irrigation Association offers online classes on the subject, such as “Water Quality of Alternative Water Sources” and “Earning Points for Green Projects.”

In addition, the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) hosts workshops across the country for those seeking to pass their accredited professional exam. The ARCSA also offers a Resource Guide of rain harvesting designers, educators and suppliers.

Once you’re up to speed on best practices, rainwater harvesting can become a highly profitable source of revenue for your company… and a valuable service for your customers.


Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine

Irrigation Association

Innovative Water Solutions

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

It’s National Fix a Leak Week!

Did you know….

Each year, household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide? That amount is:

  • Nine percent of the total water needed to end California’s five-year drought
  • Enough to fill 40 million swimming pools and 24 billion bathtubs
  • Almost equal to the capacity of Florida’s vast Lake Okeechobee
  • Equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes

Plug Those Leaks!

The EPA’s “Fix a Leak Week” is a national effort to stop that waste. This year’s event runs from March 20 through March 26.

Much of the problem stems from leaky kitchen and bathroom faucets, malfunctioning toilets and errant sprinkler systems. Fixing some of these easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills, according to the EPA.

Karen Wirth is in charge of marketing and outreach for the EPA’s WaterSense program. In her view, most folks are clueless about the total amount of water wasted because they “see a couple of drips coming out of their shower head, or sprinkler outside, or faucet, it doesn’t seem like that much.” 

So each year, the EPA hones in on the drips during Fix a Leak Week. Special events are planned from coast to coast to teach homeowners how to find and fix household leaks. To download the EPA’s Fix a Leak fact sheet click, click here.

Easy Fixes

There’s a simple way to check for leaks in the toilet, Wirth said. “Just put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If that shows up in the bowl, you have a leak.” This problem can often be fixed by simply replacing the flapper.

Replacing old and worn faucet washers and gaskets fixes most faucet leaks. For leaky shower heads, use pipe tape to secure the connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem.

For the EPA’s complete list of leak fixes, click here.

Leave It to the Pros

Irrigation systems can be another problem area. But this one best left to the professionals.

“An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month,” according to the EPA.

They suggest that homeowners consult an irrigation professional certified by WaterSense to check for leaks throughout the system.



The Washington Post

Alliance for Water Efficiency

2017 Ohio IA Annual Election Results

The Ohio Irrigation Association is pleased to announce the election of the following individuals to the Officers and Board of Directors positions for 2017:

Ohio Irrigation Association Officers 2017

 PositionNameCompany PhoneCity/State
JC Wheaton PortraitPresidentJ. C. WheatonCenterville Landscaping(937) 433-5395Centerville, Ohio
Renzo DiFrancoVice PresidentRenzo DeFrancoIrrigation Pro, Inc.(440) 572-6600Columbia Station, Ohio
John Newlin, Secretary, Ohio Irrigation AssociationSecretaryJohn NewlinQuality Sprinkling Systems, Inc.(440) 327-1936North Ridgeville, Ohio
John DolleTreasurerJohn B. DolleRainscapes Irrigation Services(937) 313-6644Springboro, Ohio

Board of Directors 2017

 NameCompany PhoneCity/State
Kevin DarnerKevin DarnerWolf Creek Company(937) 854-2694 Office
(513) 913-0686
(937) 524-1728
Cincinnati, Ohio
Jim JulianoEMI (Environmental Management Inc.(614) 876-9988Columbus, Ohio
Kris KeckleyKris KeckleyRain One Irrigation & Drainage(614) 759-1196Blacklick, Ohio
Mike KneperMike KnepperCentury Equipment(513) 285-1811 office
(513) 889-6779 cell
Cincinnati, Ohio
Tim OwenTim OwenSiteOne Landscape Supply(614) 989-3839
(800) 347-4272 toll-free
Columbus, Ohio
(with locations throughout the U.S.)

It’s Spring Sprinkler Tune-Up Time!

As spring temperatures begin to warm the earth, it’s time to prepare your landscape irrigation system for another season of watering.

Although it’s always best to hire a qualified professional contractor when performing tasks like spring start-up, if you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, you’ll want to follow these tips:

Timing Is Everything

First and foremost, you need to make sure spring has indeed sprung. Since the soil beneath your landscaping is always the last to thaw, use a shovel to confirm that the ground is frost-free 12 inches down. Starting your sprinkler system while the ground is still frozen can result in damage to the pipes. If it’s still hard as a rock, wait another week and try again.

Then check the settings on your sprinkler to make sure they are appropriate for your landscape’s watering needs, and replace the back-up battery in the timer/controller, if necessary.

Go with the Flow

Before turning on any water to the system, double-check that all manual drain valves are returned to the “closed” position.  When you first turn the water back on, be sure to open the system main water valve SLOWLY to allow pipes to fill with water gradually. Failure to do so can result in a high-pressure surge called “water hammer,” resulting in burst pipes and damaged valves.

Ensure that the sprinkler flow is unobstructed by checking for rocks, dirt, sand and other types of debris that could block your sprinkler heads. Keep an eye out for spray heads that may have become buried, allowing debris to accumulate around them during the winter.

Also, bear in mind that nozzles and sprinkler heads are designed to withstand normal wear and tear of irrigation, but not errant lawn mowers or snowplows. It’s important to replace all cracked, chipped or worn components.  A broken or leaky sprinkler can wreak havoc on both your landscaping and water bills.

Valves and Pressure Gauges

The valves in your irrigation system regulate the distribution of water throughout; they are its heart. Which is why you need to visually inspect each valve to determine that it’s operating properly. Verify the proper operation of each station valve by manually activating all zones from the controller.

It’s also important to make sure the water pressure is at a safe operating range.  A system with too much pressure will result in cracked pipes, busted valves, sprinkler head leaks and inefficient watering.

To this end, you may wish to invest in a water pressure gauge that can be used to measure water pressure in your home and yard. These devices typically connect to a hose faucet and give you a good idea of the pressure in your irrigation system. (Suggested operating range is typically 40 -65 PSI.) Hint: If water is “misting” out of your sprinkler heads, your pressure is too high and should be reduced.

Think It’ll Rain? 

Most modern irrigation systems are equipped with a rain sensor. This device should also be checked prior to activating your system in the spring. Here’s how:

  1. First, consult the systems operator’s manual to determine the proper setting for testing your unit. (For example, some systems must be set to the “manual all stations” setting to test them. If that is the case with your system, you cannot test it on the “manual single station” setting.)
  2. After properly setting the irrigation system control, check the system to make sure it came on. (You may need a helper to assist you.)
  3. Once you have confirmed that the sprinkler is running, depress the plunger located on the top of the rain sensor.  The sprinkler system should stop irrigating within a few seconds. 
  4. If watering does not stop when you depress the plunger, you’ll have to troubleshoot the system. Confirm that all wiring connections on the sensor and on the sprinkler control unit are tight. Check to make certain that the jumper tab, also called a jumper wire, was removed when the rain sensor was hooked up to the control panel.

Also be aware that the disk inside a rain sensor can become clogged with dirt or insects, which can keep it from functioning properly. Consult your operator’s manual for the correct procedure to clean the disk.

A Word about Backflow

A backflow device has been installed on your irrigation system in accordance with Ohio state law. This device prevents a cross-connection from occurring between the drinkable and undrinkable water in your home.

Spring is a good time to have your backflow preventer tested, as annual testing of the device is required in the state of Ohio. This testing can only be done by individuals who have been certified by an approved testing school. Backflow testers must have at least 24 hours of training in the classroom and hands-on test lab.

To locate a certified backflow tester in your area, Click Here.

Leave It to the Pros

Again, it’s best to leave all spring start-up tasks to the professionals. A qualified service technician will go through your irrigation system zone by zone and check every irrigation spray pattern for optimum turf and plant coverage, as well as check each sprinkler head and valve for any leaks. He can also test and clean your rain or weather sensor to ensure top performance.

Lastly, the technician will program the controller for the proper irrigation schedule, based on your landscape and weather conditions, as well as neighborhood watering restrictions.





Wi-Fi Controllers Will Be Subject of Irrigation Association Webinar

Webinar is Scheduled for Feb. 24, 2017, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST

The national Irrigation Association is sponsoring a webinar to recognize the popularity of Wi-Fi-enabled controllers, as well as the advantages and opportunities that Wi-FI technology brings to the landscape irrigation market.

Brent Mecham (CID, CLWM, CIC, CLIA, CAIS) will moderate a discussion with Wi-Fi-enabled controller experts Brian Ewing of Rachio Inc. and Stuart Eyring (CAIS, CAWM, CGIA, CIC, CLIA, CLWM) of Hydro-Rain Inc. 

Webinar Topics

The webinar will address the following topics: 

  • Understanding the basic Wi-Fi technology and how it works with irrigation controllers. 
  • Improving water efficiency using technology. 
  • Navigating the security story in the technology world. 
  • Impacting the irrigation industry through smart-home trends. 
  • Applying Wi-Fi-enabled controllers properly.

Attendees can earn one continuing education unit toward an Irrigation Association certification. Cost for the webinar is $40. For more information or to register for the webinar:

About the Presenters

Brent Mecham

Brent Mecham is the industry development director for the Irrigation Association. Currently he is involved with the development of standards and codes that affect irrigation products and practices. He has more than 35 years of experience working in the landscape and irrigation industries, including his work with a large water agency in Colorado. Mecham has written numerous industry articles, is frequently a speaker at industry events, and has co-authored many of the training manuals and books offered by the Irrigation Association. He is certified as an irrigation designer, contractor, water manager and agricultural irrigation specialist. 

Brian Ewing

Brian Ewing is the vice president of sales at Rachio and is in charge of commercialization strategy for both the consumer and professional sides of the Rachio business. He is a consumer products champion and has worked with the largest retailers in the United States. Ewing has held leadership positions in both sales and marketing with with top-tier consumer packaged goods brands Black & Decker, Philips and OtterBox. 

Stuart Eyring

Stuart Eyring is the president of Hydro-Rain Inc. He concurrently serves as chief operating officer of Orbit. Prior to joining Hydro-Rain and Orbit, he served for 15 years in various U.S. and international management roles with Ford Motor Company and Honda Engineering North America. Eyring serves on the board of Davis Applied Technical College and is past-chair of the Irrigation Association Expo Advisory Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Japanese and finance from Brigham Young University and an MBA from The Wharton School.


National Irrigation Association

Water Efficiency in the Trump Administration


With a new administration in Washington, water efficiency advocates will be changing their tactics.

It’s All About Jobs… 

Instead of focusing almost exclusively on policy issues, they will now concentrate on job creation and water infrastructure. “Water efficiency is a non-partisan issue,” according to Mary Ann Dickenson, President and CEO of Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). That’s because it’s implications are so broad, reaching across both public and private sectors.

For instance, the infrastructure spending for water efficiency creates jobs in both public and private sectors. And implementing new technologies and efficient products also creates jobs. This fits in well with President Trump’s agenda, Dickinson said.

The AWE cites a recent study that showed a government investment of $10 billion in water efficiency would result in the creation of 150,000 to 220,000 jobs. The economic benefit to the nation would be $1.30 to $1.50 for each $1 invested.

…and Taxes

Another priority for the AWE will be the introduction of  legislation to authorize tax-free water-efficiency rebates. Whereas energy-efficiency rebates have been tax-free since the 1990s, not so with rebates received from water utilities. Right now, taxpayers who receive water-efficiency rebates are sent a 1099 by the utility at the end of the year.

The Water-Energy Nexus

The rebate issue also draws attention to the so-called “water-energy nexus” — another hot-button issue which the AWE believes must be explored, both in policy and funding. 

“Right now, policy and funding (for water and energy) are very unequal,” said Gene Goldenberg, AWE’s Legislative Director. “Billions are spent on the state level for energy efficiency,” Goldenberg said. “Very little supplemental funding goes to water efficiency. Water utilities bear the burden; energy utilities do not.”

What’s Being Done?

So far this year, three water-efficiency bills have been introduced:

  1. H.R. 301 – NIST Plumbing Research Act of 2017. This bill would establish a laboratory within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research on standards for home and building plumbing to increase water efficiency, safety and sustainability. 
  2. H.R. 306 – Energy Efficient Government Technology Act. This bill requires that government data centers develop an implementation strategy for the maintenance, purchase, and use of energy- and water-efficient information technologies. The resolution has passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate.
  3. H.R. 448 – Water Conservation Tax Parity Act. This bill would amend Section 136 of the Internal Revenue Code to include rebates provided by water utilities for water conservation and storm-water management.

Our Decaying Infrastructure

According to the most recent report card (2013) from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), America’s water infrastructure is in a shambles.

“Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States,” the report stated. “Pipes and mains are frequently more than 100 years old and in need of replacement.” The estimated cost of replacement would total about $1 trillion.

In addition, the report card indicated that our nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems will require a capital investment of $298 billion over the next twenty years. Three-quarters of this must be spent on repairing and expanding pipes.

The ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card will be published on March 9.

What Can We Expect?

With the new administration, “the playing field has changed,” Goldenberg said.  Just how well the Republican leaders will be able to work with President Trump remains to be seen.

The AWE expects that a lot of legislation will continue to emerge and will probably be signed. However, it will still be difficult to bring House resolutions to a vote in the Senate.

Fortunately, water-efficiency advocates have an ally in Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), chairman of  the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to Dickinson, the AWE has a “good relationship” with Murkowski.

As a result, they are hopeful that water-efficiency bills will not remain stalled in the Senate.

What Can We Do?

The AWE believes that support from business interests will be crucial in the Trump administration. Which is why they are suggesting that concerned citizens get their CEO’s and boards of directors involved in the water-efficiency issue.

To this end, the AWE has created a sample resolution for support of the Water Conservation Tax Parity Act. 

“Water efficiency is a local issue, with local influence,” Dickinson said. So local businesses and community leaders must get involved. The AWE will provide them with support, she said.

In the meantime, individual states can continue to act on their own, as they have in the past, Dickinson said. She cited examples of Texas, Georgia, California, Colorado, where water-efficiency regulations have already been enacted.  

Want to Get Involved? Here’s How…

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) is accepting new members.

The AWE is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to the sustainable and efficient use of water in North America.

The Alliance is carving a path to a water-efficient and water-secure world, and they invite you to join this group of leading thinkers, decision-makers and pioneers.

To Join the AWE or to Learn More…
Click Here


Alliance for Water Efficiency


American Society of Civil Engineers

Estimating Workshop for Irrigation Contractors February 20, 2017 by JR Huston

Help Wanted – Irrigation Installation Foreman, Columbus (OH) Area

Environmental Management LogoEnvironmental Management, Columbus, Ohio
Experienced Landscape Irrigation Installation Foreman Needed

Help Wanted — Irrigation Installation Foreman needed for installing and maintaining underground irrigation systems for both residential and commercial clients according to EMI standard operating procedures.

Position requires previous irrigation experience and/or electrical experience.  Foreman works in cooperation with Landscape Design/Sales, Landscape Division Operations Manager, with quality and customer satisfaction as top priority.

Communicates and resolves all issues related to installation to ensure the installation meets the specifications of the design and client.  Able to properly maintain and complete daily paperwork needed to report service activities to customers and EMI administration.  Able and willing to communicate with customer when needed.

Position may require working off hours and weekends to service residential clients.  Must be available to work extended hours, weekends and during inclement weather.

The employee must provide leadership and work direction for Irrigation Crew Laborers.  They are responsible for vehicle operation, equipment operation and adherence to EMI established safety procedures.

Salary based on experience, ranging from $17.00 to $25.00 an hour

For more information on available career opportunities, please call EMI Employee Services at 614.876.9988, or visit us at www.landscapepros.com.

About Environmental Management

Environmental Management Inc. is one of the largest landscape companies in the Columbus, Ohio, and Central Ohio areas. Environmental Management designs, builds and maintains hundreds of attractive, quality outdoor environments for both residential and commercial properties. Their experienced and hardworking professional staff provides the most comprehensive array of landscape services available in today’s marketplace – and they’re dedicated to exceeding expectations, everyday!

Can the Ohio River Be Saved?

ohio river

The Ohio River is the most polluted body of water in the United States.

In fact, more than 24 million pounds of chemicals were dumped into the Ohio River by industries and businesses in 2013. That’s according to the most recent Toxic Release Inventory report produced by the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission.

How Bad Is It?

Although this sounds alarming, that figure is actually down from the high point of 33 million pounds in 2006. About 92% of the pollutants are nitrate compounds, commonly found in pesticides and fertilizers.

And, even more surprisingly, the river technically meets the human health standards for nitrates. So minimal changes are being made in their regulation.

But nitrates on the only problem the Ohio River has. Levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin that impairs fetal brain development — in the Ohio River increased by more than 40% between 2007 and 2013, according to EPA data.

On the Waterfront

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works is well aware of the chemical levels in the Ohio River. Apparently, they have both carbon filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection treatment systems in place to remove the toxins.

According to Jeff Swertfeger, Water Works’ Superintendent of Water Quality Management, “This facility is specially designed in order to remove the industrial-type contaminants like the gasolines, herbicides, pesticides, and things like that. If they get into the Ohio River and they get into the water, we can remove them here with our system.” 

He added that the Water Works monitors chemical levels hundreds of times a day to ensure the drinking water is safe.  

So Who’s to Blame?

Despite several clean-up initiatives and stricter regulation over the years, Ohio River industries still discharge more than double the amount of pollutants than the Mississippi River receives.

Most of the toxic compounds emanate from AK Steel’s Rockport, Indiana, plant, according to environmental website Outward On.  But the plant shifts the blame to farm run-off from nitrogen-based fertilizers. Currently, the EPA does not require farm run-off to be reported in their Toxic Release Inventory.

Science has shown that nitrates contribute to toxic algae blooms and oxygen-depleted dead zones. (Once such area in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, is about the size of Connecticut.)

One Vision for Restoration

But Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, is hoping to ignite a new vision for the region’s most vital natural resources.

“Twenty-five million people live in the Ohio River Valley Basin,” O’Mara said. “That’s almost a tenth of the country. And yet we’ve seen virtually no investment of federal resources in trying to clean up the legacy pollution. The Ohio is still the most polluted waterway in the entire country.” 

That is not acceptable, according to O’Mara. “We’ve been working with some of the mayors and different advocacy groups in the region, trying to just begin talking about the Ohio River as a system and [develop] a vision for the entire watershed.”

Because the Ohio is considered a “working waterway,” it’s typically been treated as simply a support for larger industrial facilities. And while industrial jobs are important, O’Mara says, we cannot afford to degrade our waterways.

“Right now across America, the outdoor economy is about a $646 billion economy. It employs more than six million people. And that puts it on par with many of the largest industries in the country. A lot of those jobs are water-dependent jobs related to fishing or swimming or outdoor activities. So one of the cases we’re trying to make is that it doesn’t have to be ‘either/or.’ The technologies exist now that we can actually have some industrial facilities and still not have to contaminate the waterway.”

O’Mara added that “Given the political power that’s in the region between Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky—I mean, you have some of the most important people in Washington that live along this watershed—there’s no reason why we can’t have significant investment go into the region.”

One thing is clear: Without significant change, the environmental future for the Ohio River is grim.

Hope Floats

But O’Mara is optimistic.

“If we can show progress in the Ohio River Valley…in a place that has a lot of legacy pollution…we can make it work anywhere.”

Until then, lest we forget what crystal clear water actually looks like:


WLWT Cincinnati



Environmental Law & Policy Center

Don’t Miss Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day – February 22, 2017!


With approximately 30 new legislators being sworn in to the 132nd Ohio General Assembly and a new leadership slate in the Ohio House, participation in the 2017 Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is more important than ever. Join your green industry colleagues on February 22 to impact legislation affecting green industries and carry the message of “who we are” to our state legislators.

Benefit of Membership

As one of the sponsors of this year’s Green Industry Advocacy Day, your Ohio Irrigation Association is counting on you. Legislative and regulatory advocacy is one of the key benefits of OIA membership. By becoming an active participant in legislative events, you strengthen this critical membership benefit. Advocacy Day is your chance to build relationships with two important groups:  Green industry business partners, and members of the Ohio legislature and their staff. And who can tell our story better than you?

In addition to the OIA, participating organizations will include:download

    • The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
    • Nursery Growers of Lake County Ohio
    • Ohio Landscape Association
    • Ohio Lawn Care Association
    • Ohio Pest Management Association
    • Ohio Professional Applicators for Responsible Regulation
    • Ohio Turfgrass Foundation

Issues at Hand

advocacyThe biennial operating budget bill will be “in play” in the Ohio House, which makes Advocacy Day the perfect time to affect change in this important legislation. In addition, issues like water quality and quantity, immigration, workers compensation and/or environmental reforms will be discussed. You can be a resource to policy makers on these key issues, helping them to make informed decisions.  They want to hear from you, and YOU have the knowledge that can help advance decisions that are favorable to our industry.

What to Expect

The morning session will feature key legislative speakers like ONLA Legislator of the Year Sen. Bob Peterson (R- Sabina); Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and others.  There will also be a briefing session where you will learn about specific bills and issues, and how best to communicate with your state legislators. Legislative meetings are then scheduled for the afternoon.

We’re Counting on YOU!

For more  information and to register for the event…
Eventbrite - Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day

Or order below:

Don’t miss out on this important opportunity to partner with fellow green industry colleagues and to explain critical industry issues to our state legislators!



Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association

You’re Invited to the OIA Annual Meeting, January 16 at MGIX

The Ohio Irrigation Association (OIA) annual meeting, held in conjunction with MGIX 2017, will be followed by a FREE reception at Barley’s Brew House.


email_sig_mgix17When: Monday, January 16

Time: 6:00 pm to 6:45 pm
(Reception following at Barley’s Brew House)

Where: The Greater Columbus Convention Center – Room C150

Reception – Free Beer, Wine and Food

draft-beer-979210_1920Join Ohio Irrigation Contractors

When: Monday, January 16

Time: 6:45 pm to whenever

Where: Barley’s Brew House, 467 N. High Street, Columbus, Ohio (across the street from the Convention Center)

Reception and Door Prizes Courtesy of HunterRain Bird and Toro

Don’t miss out on the best party of the year! Mingle with old friends, vendors, and manufacturers’ representatives. Hunter, Rain Bird, and Toro personnel will be there, as well as the Board of Directors for the Ohio Irrigation Association.

Find out how others fared through 2016. Learn about new products and old tricks. Get the latest news and views from experts. Companies from all over the state of Ohio will be represented.

We’ll See You There!

MGIX 2017, Ohio’s Premier Green Industry Trade Show, January 16-18



Midwest Green Industry Xperience (MGIX) 2017 (formerly known as CENTS) is scheduled for three full days, January 16 through 18, 2017, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The event will combine industry-leading education with an expanded trade show, offering a truly innovative green industry experience.

Trade Show

This year’s trade show will feature more than 400 exhibitors, offering a wide range of products and services, including nursery stock, hardscaping products, pest and disease control, landscaping equipment, business services and more. The show is expected to attract more than 6,000 attendees.

MGIXThe expanded trade show will also offer:

  • Garden Promenade and Garden Lounge
  • The latest innovations in the New Product Showcase
  • “Are You Smarter Than a Green Industry Pro?” trivia game in the Garden Lounge.

Back by Popular Demand

Available again this year will be the ever-popular ONLA Garage, offering hands-on training to teach your team how to correctly operate, utilize and maintain your precious equipment for optimal performance and longevity. dscf5109-e1478540194841(The ONLA Garage is included with the purchase of a trade show pass.)

Also back this year will be Climbers Corners. This live-stage event features expert educators demonstrating a variety of arboricultural techniques important to tree work professionals, landscape crews, managers and designers.


Educational sessions of particular interest to landscape and irrigation professionals will include:

  • MGIX“Integrated Pest Management in Lawns and Landscapes,” presented by Dave Shetlar, Professor of Urban Landscape Entomology, Ohio State University
  • “Sustainability Parts I, II and III,” presented by John DeVore, designer, landscape contractor and educator
  • “Landscaping for Climate Change,” presented by Kim Eierman, certified environmental horticulturist and master gardener
  • “The Landscape Sustainability Checklist,” presented by Stephen Foltz, Director of Horticulture, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
  • “Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Control,” presented by writer, consultant and educator Debra Knapke
  • “Planting from the Ground Up,” presented by Joe Boggs, Professor of Entomology, Ohio State University


In addition, the following pre-conference workshops will be offered on Sunday, January 15:

  • oipcworkshopjuly16c-400_2_origAnnual P.L.A.N.T. Seminar (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.),  presented each winter by the Perennial Plant Association in partnership with Ohio State University Master Gardener Volunteers.
  • Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavement Specialist (PICPS) Course (8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.), designed to educate experienced contractors about the differences between installing PICP versus regular interlocking concrete pavement systems.
  • Landscape Business Bootcamp (9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.), tailored to business owners, managers, employees and all those seeking to improve their expertise in the industry. The curriculum is based on GreenMark’s 4 Cores of Landscape Business Success:  Guiding the business, running the business, getting the business , and doing the business.

To Learn More…

For more information, including the education schedule and special events, Click Here.

email_sig_mgix17To register for MGIX 2017, Click Here.

To reserve a booth, Click Here.




MGIX 2017 Planning Guide

What is Lean Construction & Why Should You Care?

Everyone has heard the expression “Time is Money.” The concept of efficiency in business has long been a characteristic of manufacturing. Among the best known examples are Henry Ford’s automated mass production and Toyota Production Systems, both geared toward providing high-quality, low-cost automobiles.

Today, building contractors, architects and engineers are applying these same concepts to the construction field, using the Lean Construction (LC) philosophy. The purpose of Lean Construction is to create efficient production processes that increase value while reducing waste of time, money and effort.

lean constructionStrategic planning and open communication are two of the most important principles a business needs in order to successfully implement the Lean Construction method. All parties involved in the building process – the client, management, suppliers and those who actually perform the work on the job site – must understand the vision for the completed product, and all are welcome to contribute their ideas to enhance a positive outcome. An article published by Constructing Excellence defines five principles of Lean Construction:

  1. Identifying value from the point of view of the customer.
  2. Understanding the value streams by which value is delivered.
  3. Achieving flow within work processes as waste is removed.
  4. Achieving pull so that nothing is made/delivered until it is needed.
  5. Recognizing that improvement needs to be constantly sought.

Why does it matter?

Lean Construction enhances efficiency by providing standards to the industry worldwide, with a major emphasis on reducing waste and increasing value. Creating a comprehensive strategic plan prior to starting a project is an essential element to achieve the goal of bringing the project in on time, under budget, and resulting in a quality product.

lean2Contractors who utilize the LC philosophy develop a detailed plan, from the conceptual design stage through completion of the project, and use a teamwork approach to ensure that everyone involved is aware of their role and responsibilities. They know the type, quantity and cost of materials, and collaborate with suppliers to reduce waste of materials and money. They plan the flow of processes required for each step of the building process, using standard procedures that have been developed based on experience and input from stakeholders (including the workers in the field). Information is shared throughout the process and adjustments made as necessary, to ensure reduction in downtime and miscommunication.

Why should we care about Lean Construction?

In addition to the obvious benefits of saving time and money for the client and the contractor, the Lean Construction focus on reducing material waste contributes to protecting the environment. By including workers’ contributions in planning and implementing processes, safety is enhanced and new workers are attracted to the field. And the client reaps the most benefit, as the goal is to specifically create value for the customer.

How is Lean Construction affecting the world?


Diagram Courtesy of MicroSource

As the construction industry develops and formulates LC practices that produce the best results, this knowledge can be shared, thus reducing costly mistakes and maximizing value throughout the process. The International Group for Lean Construction boasts members from all over the world, bringing together professionals from architecture, engineering and construction to research and evaluate best practices and to share ideas to meet the challenges of the future. LC is connected to global environmental issues, such as the need for the raw materials and energy sources required to manufacture finished products for the construction industry.

Recognized by the EPA

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the advantages of the Lean Construction philosophy. The agency offers a “Lean, Energy & Climate Toolkit” on their website which outlines cost savings, greenhouse gas management, and competitive advantage as benefits resulting from using LC strategies. As energy companies and other professions seek ways to control costs and improve services, they are also implementing the tools provided by the Lean philosophy.

The following video provides the basics of Lean Construction in three minutes:


Lean Construction shows great promise in helping the industry with the economic and financial challenges facing them. The willingness of the community to share and standardize processes will benefit both the contractors’ bottom lines and the end result for consumers.

Jessica Kane writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading supplier of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.



Constructing Excellence

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Winterizing a Landscape Irrigation System

(Note: This article originally appeared in SportTurf Magazine)

Winter ImageThe dreary days of November remind us that it’s time to start thinking about preparing your irrigation systems for winter. Water expands when it freezes. Since automatic irrigation systems are usually buried only about twelve inches below the surface of the soil, water left in an irrigation system in freezing climates over the winter, even a mild winter, will certainly freeze — causing damage to pipes, fittings, valves, and sprinklers. Damage caused by a frozen irrigation system can be expensive and time consuming to repair next spring. Preventing winter damage by properly winterizing the irrigation system is important. Using compressed air to force water out of the irrigation system is the most common method of winterization. However, irrigation systems equipped with automatic or manual drain valves do not require compressed air to winterize. Only the installing contractor will know if an irrigation system is equipped with automatic or manual drain valves. If you are not sure what type of irrigation system you are winterizing, then use compressed air. Using compressed air on an irrigation system equipped with automatic or manual drain valves will not harm the components of the irrigation system, and will ensure the irrigation system is properly winterized.

Selecting an Air Compressor

Sulliar 185 Portable Air Compressor

Sulliar 185 Portable Air Compressor

A properly sized air compressor is critical in effectively and efficiently blowing air into the irrigation system, forcing any water out. Air compressors are available in various sizes. The most common portable air compressor, which represents roughly 80% of the portable air compressors going into rental fleets today, is the 185 portable air compressor. This machine is rated at 185 cfm at 100 psi at full load. You can find one through a contractors’ equipment rental shop that is more than adequate to get the job done for most residential and commercial irrigation systems. Smaller 5 h.p. electric air compressors, although capable of delivering 100 psi, are not capable of delivering enough volume of air to adequately winterize an irrigation system.

Compressed Air Winterization

The first step in winterizing an irrigation system is to shut off the water to the irrigation system at the point of connection. The system shut-off valve may be a ball valve or gate valve located in the basement or directly after the water meter. Then open a zone valve to relieve the system pressure. Attach the air hose from the air compressor to the blow-out point. The blow-out point is usually located directly after the backflow device. The blow-out point may be a quick coupling valve, a hose bib, or a boiler drain. In this technical drawing the blow-out connection is the quick-coupling valve located in the valve box.

A note of caution: The expanding air coming from the air compressor into the irrigation system will get hot and may melt the plastic pipe. Carefully check the temperature of the air-hose connection at the blow-out point. Slow down or stop momentarily if it feels too hot! Cycling through each zone two or three times for short intervals will prevent too much heat buildup.


Winterizing an irrigation system with compressed air

Air Compressor Settings

Set the pressure regulator on the air compressor at 50 to 80 psi. On smaller residential systems, where the zones are typically about 10 gpm or less, open one electric remote control valve manually and cycle through all the other zones two to three minutes by manually opening each valve or by electrically operating each valve at the controller. Opening one valve manually will help to keep the air com- pressor from building up too much pressure while assuring an adequate volume of air to thoroughly blow out all the water in the sys- tem. On larger systems it may not be necessary to open one valve manually. Allow the air to flow through each zone until water and water vapor no longer appears from any sprinklers in the zone. Start with the zone with the highest elevation in the system or farthest from the point of connection, blowing out each zone successively toward the point of connection. It is a good idea to cycle through each zone two times to ensure there is no water remaining that might settle into a low point in the lateral pipe.

Automatic Drain System Winterization

Although using compressed air is the most common method for winterizing an automatic irrigation system, there are two other types of automatic irrigation systems. The first type is a system equipped with automatic drains. The automatic drains open when the system pressure falls below 10 psi. For these systems it is usually only necessary to turn off the water. Open a drain valve after the point of connection. Prepare the backflow device and controller for winter as noted below. Some irrigation systems incorporate automatic drain valves on the laterals and manual drain valves on the main line. The manual drain valves will be located in small valve boxes at the end and at low points on the main line. Open the drain valves, and allow the water to drain out completely. Then close the drain valve.

Manual Drain System Winterization

An irrigation system equipped with manual drain valves requires you to locate the drain valve for each zone and the main line. The manual drain is usually located in a small valve box at the end of the zone and at every low point. Also, the main line will have a manual drain at the end of the line and at every low point. Open each drain valve, allowing all the water to drain out, and then close the manual drains. Winterize the back- flow device and irrigation controller as noted below.

Backflow Winterization

Backflow Installation Detail

Typical PVB backflow installation.

There are two backflow devices utilized in landscape irrigation systems. The most common is a pressure vacuum breaker. Open the top of the pressure vacuum breaker and remove the internal discs and springs. Storing these components near the irri- gation controller makes them easier to find next spring. Turn the handles on the two ball valves and all test ports to a partially open 45 degree position. Ball valves, when fully closed or fully open, will trap water in between the ball and the valve housing. The valve housing will crack during a freeze if not left partially open.

Some newer pressure vacuum breakers are freeze resistant, with a built-in relief valve to protect the internal components and the body from freezing. It is not necessary to remove the internal components in these devices.

The other type of backflow device used in irrigation system is a reduced pressure principle backflow device, or RPZ. It is usually best to remove this device completely during the winter and store indoors. Then cap the pipes to the irrigation system. If removal of the RPZ back- flow device is not possible, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterization. Each manufacturer has specific instructions for winterizing their reduced pressure principle backflow device.

Irrigation Controller and Rain Sensor Winterization

To prepare the irrigation controller for winter, simply turn the contoller to the off or rain shutdown position. You can also disconnect the power and remove the battery but this is not necessary. It is important not to allow the controller to cycle through an irrigation schedule without water in the system because the remote-control valves require water to move through the solenoid assembly to cool the assembly.

If your irrigation system is equipped with a rain sensor or a soil moisture sensor, it is not usually necessary to cover or remove the sensor for the winter. Check with the manufacturer to make sure the sensor does not require any special instructions for win- terization.

Pump Winterization

Submersible pumps, located in a lake or stream, have a check valve at the pump which needs to be removed to make certain the discharge hose does not freeze. It is adviseable to simply remove the pump and discharge hose from water each winter, reinstalling it in the spring.

Centrifigal pumps have a drain valve located at the base of the pump housing that needs to be removed and stored for the winter. The power supply for the pump should also be disconnect- ed to prevent the pump from being accidentally turned on with- out any water. A pump running without water will quickly burn up. Additionally, if the pump is drawing water from a lake or stream, the intake hose has a foot valve located at the base of the suction line. So it is necessary to remove the intake or suction line completely from the water and store it for the winter. Sometimes a check valve is also located on the discharge side of the pump. This check valve needs to be removed and stored for the winter.

Preparing an irrigation system for winter can be a complicated process. A knowledgeable professional is essential to minimize freezing water damage. An improperly winterized irrigation system can be an expensive proposition next spring.

Internet-Based Smart Irrigation Systems

Internet-based smart irrigation system technology is rapidly expanding throughout the industry, particularly for residential usage.web-based

Internet-based smart irrigation system technology is even featured in Forbes magazine, “Tired Of Wasting Water With That Dumb Sprinkler? Meet The Smart Sprinkler Controller.” This irrigation system technology allows residential users to control and monitor their sprinkler systems from anywhere in the world using a web browser or iPhone/Android app. It also uses the homeowner’s wireless internet (wifi) to access a live stream from nearby weather stations.  As a result, residential users are provided with real-time weather data, without the need to install a personal weather station or rain sensor.

lawn1Using adaptive algorithms to generate custom and dynamic watering schedules from this weather data, the smart controller automatically determines the optimal watering schedule for the irrigation site. The system automatically adjusts watering cycles, duration and frequency for optimal results in any weather condition. Some smart controllers will even take into consideration local watering restrictions.

swat_logoWeb-based irrigation systems are certifiable through both the EPA’s WaterSense program and the Irrigation Association’s Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) testing.  For a comparison of WaterSense and SWAT testing protocols, click here.

Let’s take a look at some of the web-based irrigation systems currently available…


Skydrop’s WiFi-based smart controller entered the market in September of 2014. The company is based in Lehi, Utah, and promotes its product as helping residential users to abide by local watering restrictions. (“Don’t be a lawn bandit, and don’t risk hefty fines.”) According to Skydrop, the typical homeowner can install and set up its controller in less than 30 minutes.

Malibu-GardenIn addition to using real-time weather data, the Skydrop smart controller also measures soil moisture to determine how much water the landscape is losing.  Like most other internet-based systems, the Skydrop device is programmed by zone according to soil type, plant type, sprinkler type, slope and shape. The  Skydrop controller can also be integrated with other smart home systems such alarm controllers, solar heating/cooling, and outdoor lighting.

logo-90The controller includes a “cycle and soak” feature to eliminate or reduce runoff when landscapes are sloped. The company claims that watering each zone separately and only when required results in an average reduction in water usage of 35%. The Skydrop smart controller has qualified for the EPA’s WaterSense® Certification, yet the company does not plan to pursue SWAT testing at this time.

The Skydrop controller operates eight zones plus a master valve/pump, and is expandable to 16 zones with an expansion unit. The retail price for the Skydrop 8-zone controller is around $300, and the expansion unit retails for $50.

Hydrawise (Hunter Industries)

flowerHydrawise was recently purchased by Hunter Industries. The Hydrawise smart controller provides interactive online reporting and alerts that allow the user to view water usage for each watering cycle or the water flow rate at any time. Email alerts notify the user of water flows (e.g., due to a broken pipe or faulty valve) when no zone is currently running. Alerts can also be configured when the water usage for an irrigation zone changes by more than 10% (such as, from broken spray heads or faulty wiring).

Hydrawise2ColorTrim260Hydrawise is one of the products which does not require port forwarding on the user’s router in order to control the irrigation system from anywhere in the world. Rather, wireless functionality is provided inside the controller; the user enters a wireless password on the controller itself.

hydrawiseAccording to Chris Foster, Midwest Sales Manager for Hunter, the Hydrawise system utilizes Cloud technology, allowing the residential user and support technician to “meet in the cloud,” thereby preventing any potential security risks.  “Hydrawise is fourth-generation technology,” he said.

The Hydrawise controller is available in 6- or 12-zone models; expansion modules allow an individual system to be expanded up to 36 zones. The product is WaterSense certified and was the winner of  The Australian Backyard Innovation Challenge in 2015. Hydrawise has not been SWAT tested. Pricing is available through a Hunter distributor.

According to Michael White, Vice President of Turf & Landscape Sales for Automatic Irrigation Supply, one of the best features of the Hydrawise system is the professional support that is now available through Hunter Industries.

Cyber Rain

The Cyber Rain smart controller is manufactured by Israel-based Galcon, which is owned by Kibbutz Kfar Blum.  According to the company, Cyber Rain was the very first central irrigation product to earn the EPA WaterSense certification (in 2012). It also claims that the Cyber Rain controller can reduce water costs by up to 40% annually. Cyber Rain is SWAT approved.

LogoCyberRain1Cyber Rain supplies a small device called an “Access Point” that is plugged into a router so that the controller can access the internet using Cloud technology. The Access Point communicates with an unlimited number of Cyber Rain controllers through its own two-way wireless network. The standard radio can communicate up to 200 feet, while the longer-range radio can reach up to two miles with the optional antenna.

downloadCyber Rain offers a Smart Scheduling Wizard to set up the water-wise irrigation schedule customized to the particular landscape. For zones with dense soil or on a slope, for instance, the Cyber Rain smart controller offer a cycle and soak feature to avoid run-off.

Controllers are available in 8-, 16- and 24-zone models. (The optional antenna can be attached to increase range.) Prices for the residential systems range from $500 to $600.  Professional installation is not required for the residential systems, but appears to be recommended.


Rachio introduced its first product (“Iro”) in 2014; Iro is an intelligent irrigation controller that is powered by Rachio’s cloud-based software.  It an be rachio-logo-for-web-300px (1)controlled either through a web-based dashboard or through an intuitive Android or iPhone app. During setup, the homeowner’s smartphone sends a signal to the Iro, connecting it to the internet through a WiFi network. It then communicates with Rachio’s cloud-based software. The company claims that installation and setup take less than 30 minutes with no special tools or expertise required.

The Iro will automatically check the local weather forecast and issue adjustments based on evapotranspiration and precipitation data to match soil moisture depletion. The Iro also learns from the customer’s adjustments over time. As a result, users can personalize the balance between water use and the level of plant health in each zone.

Irrigation-Flowers013Iro’s Smart Cycle will automatically schedule cycle and soak irrigation events to eliminate or reduce runoff when landscapes are sloped and/or the infiltration rate of the soil is less than that of the precipitation rate of the nozzle for the given zone. A virtual rain sensor will suspend irrigation events if rain is forecasted within the next 24 hours.

Iro controllers are available in 8-zone ($199) and 16-zone ($249) models. The Iro system has received the EPA’s WaterSense certification. Rachis is SWAT tested and has earned the prestigious EPA WaterSense label for irrigation efficiency.

Comparison of Residential Web-Based Smart Irrigation Controllers

 SkydropHydrawiseCyber RainRachio
SmartPhone CompatibleYesYesYesYes
Ipad/PC CompatibleYesYesNoYes
Android CompatibleYesYesYesYes
Uses Real-time Weather DataYesYesYesYes
Provides Online ReportingYesYesYesYes
Uses Cloud TechnologyYesYesYesYes
WaterSense CertifiedYesYesYesYes
SWAT TestedYesNoYesYes
Do-It-Yourself InstallationYesNo
Professional SupportNoYesNoYes
Interfaces with Other Home SystemsYesYesNoYes
Includes Cycle and Soak FeatureYesYesYesYes
No. of Zones Available8, 166, 12*8, 168, 16
Price$299.99-$348.99 $260.00-$310.00$499.00-$599.00$199.00-$249.00

*May be expanded up to 36 zones.

The Future

Having recently attended a trade function focused on what water management will look like in the year 2065, Automatic Irrigation’s Michael White firmly believes that the web-based systems are crucial to allowing homeowners to be better stewards of water resources.  “Twenty-five years from now, water will cost much more than it does today,” he said. Consequently, “These new systems are good for the consumer and they’re good for the industry.”

(Editor’s note: Rachio’s data was corrected and updated from the original post based on additional information provided by the manufacturer.)


U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, “Weather- and Soil Moisture-Based Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Devices”

“Using Your Smarts” With Smart Irrigation Controllers Featuring JC Wheaton

Lawn & Landscape January 2016 CoverJ.C. Wheaton, President of the Ohio Irrigation Association and manager of Centerville Irrigation in Ohio, was recently featured in Lawn & Landscape’s article entitled, “Total Control.” Smart Irrigation controllers are the next step in the efficient use of water in the landscape.

J.C. was interviewed about Smart Irrigation Controllers, calling the new technology “the responsible thing to do.”

JC Wheaton Head & ShouldersWheaton’s company installs a controller with a smart sensor, capable of sensing local weather conditions. The sensor then automatically alerts the controller to the current conditions, eliminating the need for human manipulation.  This is something customers appreciate, because “it saves them from either having to go to the box themselves or calling us for a return trip,” Wheaton said.

One-Stop Service

Customers also love the fact that the system is a “one-stop” service that automatically adjusts to the temperature.   “They don’t have to go out three times or four times a season to adjust everything.”  He considers this the system’s strongest selling point for new customers.  “You’re saving them the hassle with keeping the property the way they want,” he said.

While Wheaton admits that the smart controller system costs more than a traditional controller (still less than $100), he believes the energy and water savings make it a much better long-term deal.

More Commercial Use Needed

commerical-sprinklersWhich is one reason he hopes commercial architects and designers will jump on board to maximize efficiency of their designs.  Right now, the smart controller systems are not very well stocked on commercial projects, and that’s resulting in poor efficiency.  “You see them all the time running in the rain, no matter what town you’re in,” Wheaton says. “Running too long, running in the gutter…because they were not put in correctly with the right components.”

The Down Side?

One of the potential drawbacks to the smart controller system is losing control of when the zones are running. “You’re basically turning that over to the clock to make those decisions, which isn’t always a bad thing. But sometimes the homeowner or resident wants to know their irrigation schedule and you can’t necessarily tell them that,” Wheaton said.

Companies will also see fewer mid-season service calls. Contractors who are concerned about that are probably not the type who will benefit from using the smart control system, Wheaton said.  “It’s about the efficiency of getting the best product to your customer. Those callbacks can be used other ways, such as zoning and monthly business checks.”


Lawn & Landscape, http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/article/total-control/