Free service enables property management companies to water lawns more efficiently
Getting the maximum benefit from home irrigation systems through evapotranspiration technology (ET) or “smart irrigation” is getting easier. Texas A&M established the AgriLife Extension, a website that aims to help homeowners prevent overwatering without the need for a high-cost ET system.
Water My Yard, a free web app developed in cooperation with the Lower Colorado River Authority, provides property owners and tenants with superior control over their landscape water usage, reducing water expenses. This web app is a simplified alternative to expensive ET irrigation systems, which use weather data to determine if and how long sprinkler systems run, right down to the zone. The technology is designed to provide just enough water to the landscape to keep it health without overwatering.
Chris Lee is president of the Dallas-based company Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. Lee encourages clients in residential leasing to explore Water My Yard.
“This new service gives homeowners and property managers a chance to be more active and have a better understanding of what they need to do to efficiently irrigate landscapes,” said Lee.
Evapotranspiration system versus Water My Yard web application
While Water My Yard is not as intricate as ET systems, both accomplish approximately the same task: They use up-to-date, local weather data, including ground- and air-moisture levels, to determine how long – if at all – and in which zones to run the sprinkler system.
Though ET systems have become more affordable in recent years, to get the most accurate data still requires expensive controllers that must be added to the irrigation system and monthly weather service fees that can cost approximately $200 to $300 annually.
Water My Yard was launched in May of 2016 and is in place for dozens of Texas communities served by the lower Colorado River basin. Included are Bryan/College Station, City of Irving, Lower Colorado River Authority, North Texas Municipal Water District, Park Cities Municipal Utility District and Upper Trinity Regional Water District.
The program draws information from 43 weather stations across the state. Six stations monitor wind direction and solar radiation and send information to A&M AgriLife, which is forwarded to Water My Yard to determine, along with recent precipitation, how much water is needed to water the lawn.
Water My Yard web app useful for unmonitored properties
Single-family, residential property managers cannot always control landscape water use. Even though the tenant typically pays for water, water waste remains a grave concern. Water My Yard is a useful tool to minimize water waste, by informing users when and when not to use the system.
“At a minimum, people overwater by 30 to 40 percent,” Lee said. “They don’t understand what they are doing or they forget to turn off the system after it rains. Plants don’t need that much water.”
Service sends text or email recommendations weekly
Receiving this service is easy and takes only about five minutes. Simply go to the website, sign up for the service and enter your location and information about your irrigation systems. Water needs are determined based on the type of irrigation system: physical location, sprinkler head type, distance between heads and manufacturer. The step-by-step instructions make this a straightforward and uncomplicated process.
Each week, the user receives an automated email or text message with a recommended watering schedule. Unlike ET-based systems that automatically program a new schedule, Water My Yard only suggests how many minutes a system needs to run, if any at all.
“The classic example is that the sprinkler system runs on its schedule after it’s been pouring raining because the system is programmed to run and the operator doesn’t shut it off,” Lee said. “With this tool, you get a text or email telling you that you don’t need to run your system. There’s already enough moisture in the ground.”
Lee stresses the need for a tool like Water My Yard when the weather becomes unpredictable. During droughts or unseasonable rain storms, it is essential to monitor the amount of water going toward irrigation to prevent waste. By reducing water consumption with this free tool, the savings for the property manager or owner can be substantial.