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Sprinkler program gets extension

Smart irrigation controllers available to SCV residents free of charge

Posted: March 31, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 31, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Rene Emeterio, a consultant for Castaic Lake Water Agency, conducts an inspection of a newly installed sprinkler control system. Photo courtesy of Castaic Lake Water Agency.

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Directors of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water wholesaler have agreed to extend for another year a free water sprinkler program credited with conserving about 10 percent of water used by the average single-family household — one “smart sprinkler” at a time.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency directed its general manager, Dan Masnada, to renew its contract with Specialized Landscape Management Services on Wednesday.

“Basically, the contract renewal supports the agency continuing with its successful program of providing Santa Clarita Valley residents with free smart irrigation controllers that automatically adjust watering times to take into account actual weather conditions,” said the agency’s water resources manager, Dirk Marks.

“Our experience is that residents typically save about 10 percent over the course of a year” by using the smart irrigation controllers, he said.

During the past four years, Specialized Landscape has distributed 2,325 “weather-based irrigation controllers” throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. On average, that means a dozen water-wasting lawns havebeen transformed into water-saving lawns every week since 2010.

“It’s really beneficial for the valley as a whole and for individual homeowners,” Marks said.

“The controller, a mini weather station, and modules retails for over $600,” he said. “It’s a great deal for Santa Clarita residents. And all SCV residents have to do is take an online course that explains the devices’ operation to qualify.”

10 percent reduction

A mandatory water-use-reduction order was passed last month by the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee calling for each household in the SCV to reduce water use by at least 10 percent. Marks said the controllers on hand at the agency allow the average single-family homeowner to hit that target.

Online course
Rene Emeterio, who owns and operates Specialized Landscape, regularly taught homeowners how to install and use the controllers during classes at the Castaic Lake agency’s Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant in Saugus.

Now a homeowner can complete the same course online by filling out a questionnaire — similar to an online traffic school questionnaire — which, upon completion, earns him a voucher to pick up his free wireless weather station sprinkler controller, Emeterio said.

“The people who are actually getting the controllers are seeing savings in water and money,: said Emeterio.
A good portion of Santa Clarita Valley homeowners who have taken advantage of the free smart sprinklers are also people who have installed solar panels on their homes, said the Santa Clarita Valley resident.

“They are becoming more and more conscious of saving money where they can,” he said.

Conservation plan

Local water officials adopted a water conservation plan called the Santa Clarita Valley Water Use Efficiency Strategic Plan back in February 2009, well before the current drought. The plan included a residential landscape program.

They agreed to hire Emeterio’s Specialized Landscape Management Services to begin implementing the smart sprinkler lawn transformation.

They originally planned for a one-year contract, renewable for four years. However, as the program grew, agency staff found ways to convince the agency board to authorized extending it, Marks said.

A little more than a year ago, the board agreed with staff recommendations to amend Emeterio’s contract for a third year, for $146,000.

On Wednesday, the board extended the program to a fifth year.

When local water officials at the agency first hammered out their water efficiency plan, their focus was on training gardeners and landscapers on “smart sprinkler” technology.

Emeterio, who is bilingual, assists in implementing the program in the following ways, according to the agency:

- Conducting outreach to residents and landscape contractors.

- Conducting follow-up inspections of the controllers.

- Fielding questions from residents with controllers.

Agency officials estimate the sprinkler controllers save more than half an acre-foot of water per device over 10 years, and that water savings are about 10 percent of total household water consumption. That saving amounts to enough water to fill 2,178 bathtubs.

Anyone wanting more information about the controllers should call the Castaic Lake Water Agency at 661-297-1600  or visit its website at
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