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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Saving Water By Bytes And Bits

In the heat of California’s drought, Calabasas has turned on a new water-saving system that will cut the city’s irrigation usage by about a quarter. And while programmable irrigation is not new, the Smart Irrigation Control System by Rain Master Control Systems in Riverside is a huge advance. Each field unit receives data by Wi-Fi from a local weather station. The unit has weather patterns and analytics programmed in, which allow the controller to perform calculations automatically and dispense water based on need. When the temperature is forecast to go up, the unit increases watering, and when the temperature drops – or it rains – it shuts down. “The controller is like a small computer. You log into the account and you can do a remote programming and set up weather adjustments,” said Anson Beattie, district sales manager for Deere & Co.’s Green Tech subsidiary, which distributes and provides technical support for the system. Calabasas bought 58 of the units to cover 53 acres of parks, schools and street medians in Calabasas. It cost the $600,000 for the units, which are priced at $1,500 to $3,500 a pop. Funds from Prop 84, a state water bond initiative, covered 75 percent of the total, with the remainder from grants and rebates provided by local water districts. Savings are expected to be about 1,800 gallons a year, shaving $20,000 from the city’s water bill. Bill McDonnell, water efficiency manager at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provided $46,000 in rebates for the project, said smart irrigation controllers are cost effective. “Water is like electricity, it never goes down in price. Water will get more expensive every year,” he said. McDonnell said businesses can get incentives for installing smart irrigation controllers. The water district, which spans Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties, pays rebates that when combined with others can total $80 a controller. Calabasas officials chose to buy the system after they realized asking residents to shorten their showers and turn off their sprinklers wasn’t enough to conserve water during a major drought. “We all hope for rain soon, and when it rains the system automatically shuts off,” said Mayor David Shapiro at an Oct. 8 ceremony that celebrated the system. – Olga Grigoryants

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