EPA plans specs for soil moisture-based controls

June 3, 2013 -  By

WaterSense, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water-efficiency program, has issued a formal notice of intent to develop a specification for soil moisture-based irrigation control technologies.

Most irrigation systems use clock timers that must be manually programmed by homeowners or irrigation professionals. Soil moisture sensors and controls adjust irrigation watering schedules based on plants’ actual needs, however. Studies suggest that these sensors can reduce water use by more than 20 percent, which may save millions of gallons of water throughout the United States.

The specification, when finalized, will help increase the number of WaterSense-labeled irrigation products available to consumers. It also will help improve the efficient use of water outdoors.

WaterSense and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) will work together to create testing standards for soil moisture sensors and soil moisture sensor controllers. The new ASABE standards will be based on testing protocols developed by the Irrigation Association’s (IA) Smart Water Application Technologies initiative. IA says it will be an active stakeholder in the development of two new standards, one for soil moisture sensors and one for testing smart controllers.

“The Irrigation Association and Smart Water Application Technologies Committee applaud the EPA and WaterSense for considering labeling soil moisture sensor control technologies,” IA Industry Development Director and SWAT Liaison Brent Mecham said. “This process will help transform the irrigation marketplace by encouraging the use of innovative products, supporting IA’s mission to promote efficient irrigation technologies, products and services.”

The WaterSense labeling program is designed to reduce indoor and outdoor residential and commercial water use by taking the guesswork out of selecting products. Only products that have been independently certified to verify they meet established criteria for water efficiency and performance earn the WaterSense label.

The new specification for soil moisture-based products will complement the existing WaterSense specification for weather-based irrigation controllers. The notice of intent outlines proposed performance measures for this category and identifies technical issues for industry comment. The IA encourages its members to provide feedback at watersense-products@erg.com.

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