State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Water Sensors – Saving Water in Irrigation

Image is property of the American Irrigation Company,
Image is property of the American Irrigation Company,

One of the largest uses of fresh water withdrawals in the United States is for irrigation. The USGS estimates that 60% of the worlds fresh water withdrawals is for irrigation purposes, which calculates to 137,000 million gallons per day used for irrigation purposes.  Some of this water is for irrigation of crops, while other of it is strictly for lawns and gold courses. In Florida, about 50% of the household water use is for lawn irrigation. If the water used for irrigation could be minimized, it would save millions of gallons of water daily. 

A new technology that has been introduced is soil sensors that control irrigation. Most people overwater their lawns significantly, and instead of using a daily timer or manual setting, a soil sensor measures the moisture of the soil, and turns on the irrigation system when water is needed, timing it to shut off once a certain saturation is met. This system can tell when enough water has reached the roots, unlike the curernt systems where a arbitrary amount of time is selected for the irrigation system. This system of soil sensors is preferable because it takes into account recent rain, the actual water needed, and soil moisture levels to ensure that the amount of water needed is what is dispensed.

This system is beginning to grown, especially in areas with Golf Courses. In an article by the New York Times, a Golf Course in Pennsylvania that uses this system is discussed. Since they began using soil sensors, they have reduced their water use for all courses by 100 million gallons of water per year. If this technology was used on a greater scale, the amount of potable water saved would be huge.  The technology is still being worked on to ensure proper function, but it is extremely successful. The cost of installing the system is typically made up in water savings within a year, and it is not high maintainance, making it a valuable system to install.

With irrigation as one of the highest users of water in the World, technologies that reduce the amount of water used are extremely valuable and can reduce water usage on a world wide level significantly. This technology is one that should be followed as it grows in popularity, and  it will save water and money for those who implements it.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments