Sustainable Works: How Smart Are New Smart Controllers?
Rain Bird ESP-SMT
BY BILLY R. SIMS
When put to the test,
these irrigation controllers
prove water wise.
n the beginning, there was heaven and earth. Rain came
as part of the package.
Whenever this proved insufﬁcient, humans employed
various technologies to water crops and landscapes —
irrigation canals, pumps and so on.
Resourceful, but not very efﬁcient.
With the introduction of automatically controlled irrigation
systems in the late 1950s, where water is distributed through
pipes in predetermined patterns, a giant leap forward was
achieved. Then changes came rapidly with the introduction of
two-wire irrigation systems 25 years ago, followed by central
controlled systems, and 10 years ago, ET or seasonally adjusted
Within the past ﬁve years, a new generation of “smart” irrigation controllers has gained popularity. “Technology developed for the golf business has moved over to commercial
and then residential applications,” says Doug Callison, senior
product manager for Rain Bird.
Smart controllers are basically irrigation clocks that automatically adjust irrigation run times in response to environ-
18 TOTAL LANDSCAPE CARE / July 2011
mental changes. They use sensors and
weather information to manage watering times and frequency. As conditions
vary, the controller increases or decreases irrigation.
Pretty darn smart, but what’s really
intelligent: They reduce water use 15 to
30 percent and over-watering.
They are poised to change the face
of landscape irrigation.
Following are examples of controllers that have undergone Smart Water
Technology (SWAT) performance tests
by the Center for Irrigation Technology:
Rain Bird ESP-SMT
Suitable for residential and light
Includes controller and onsite
sensor to monitor weather
Sensor features tipping rain bucket
that suspends irrigation if rainfall
Sensor measures the amount of
effective rainfall to prevent