Irrigation Management Tools - What Is Better? Central Control Irrigation or Smart Controllers?

The weather in the Portland area continues to be more April than July. This past Sunday, July 17th, the slight chance of showers in the weather forecast turned into a multi-hour rain event that eventually totaled over half an inch of rainfall. Suffice it to say that very few irrigation controllers in the region adjusted accordingly for that night's watering. Instead they ran as if it had not rained at all because it would require an on-site visit by someone to actually reduce or shut off irrigation schedules. That rarely happens and on Sunday it does not happen at all. What about them new fangled smart controllers? You know the ones that receive some type of weather data that adjusts the irrigation run times without a personal visit? Well, they very well may have adjusted appropriately. However, how do you know?

Were there any problems with the communication of said weather data?Was the weather data source recording the weather properly or at all?Is the smart controller in the right mode to incorporate the weather data or was it accidentally set to run in stand alone?

The bottom line is that you don't know with these smart controllers for a couple of reasons. First, there is no communication option (outside of a spendy upgrade) that allows a user to contact the smart controller to check on its status. It still needs an on-site visit to do that. Second, there is no way to retrieve any kind of stored data within the controller to produce a report to review.

Now a rainfall event like this past Sunday certainly is a clearcut example of how a controller that is accessible via telephone, wi-fi, cellular, etc. is such a key part of effective irrigation management. Whether from a website or a central computer, an irrigation manager can check that the irrigation is shut down due to such a rainfall amount. That is tremendous peace of mind for the irrigation manager and a huge water savings for the property owner. This is no different for less dramatic weather changes like a week's worth of scorching hot weather followed by a weekend of mostly cloudy weather. Again, the irrigation manager can check that the weather data is recorded properly, transmitted properly and watered properly...without visiting the controller in person.

Smart controllers do none of this. Now smart controllers are a step in the right direction when compared to traditional controllers. However, they are woefully incomplete. There is no way to retrieve data, produce reports, check on communication links, make programming corrections or see if the irrigation controller actually has electrical power and is running irrigation schedules. In contrast, central control irrigation systems provide all of these management benefits. Whether it is via a website or software loaded onto a desktop or laptop computer, an irrigation manager can check on the controllers without a site visit. The technology is readily available for these central control irrigation systems. Why settle for a partial solution?

Irrigation Management Systems (IMS) has saved water and money for its clients since the late 1980s, long before green was fashionable. Using the right combination of technology and management practices, IMS has long worked on keeping that delicate balance of saving water while keeping shrubs, turf and flowers sufficiently watered. Get to know us a little better at and you can also get some free tips to saving water.

Original article