Take Control of Your Controller

There is a limit to how much water is actually beneficial to your landscape. Make sure you’re the one running the show. 

Settling into a new home can be stressful enough without the added shock of a high water bill. Unfortunately, it’s common practice for realtors, irrigators and landscape companies to program in-ground sprinkler systems to throw exorbitant amounts of water on a landscape prior to selling it in an effort to “green up” older landscapes. Other times it’s done to establish newly laid turf grass and other plants in a brand new landscape. 

In either case, there is a limit to how much water is actually beneficial to your landscape. And too often these settings go unnoticed by a new homeowner or tenant — until it’s too late. 

So don’t delay, check the irrigation controller today. Here’s what to look for. 

  • Program(s): allow you to have multiple schedules run on the same controller.
    • Before you begin, locate the manual for your irrigation controller. If you don’t have a physical copy, search the manufacturer’s website for an electronic version. 
    • When checking and reprogramming your controller be sure to cycle through all of them (i.e. A, B, C and D) to make sure there aren’t any hidden schedules running on a program you aren’t using.
    • For most homeowners running everything on one program (such as Program A) is recommended.
  • Start time(s): allows you to set the time of day to run the sprinklers. 
    • Most controllers allow you to set multiple start times for each program so be sure to cycle through all of them. Make sure only one start time is set to avoid doubling or tripling your water bill. 
    • A single morning run time is sufficient as it allows plant roots to absorb the water.

    irrigation schedule

  • Run time(s): allows you to set how many minutes each zone will water. 
    • The best way to determine how long a zone should run is to test each zone manually and observe what’s being watered and how (spray, rotors, drip, etc.). Also note how much sun or shade it gets.
    • Use our recommended run times for grass and flower/plant beds as a baseline for programming.
    • This will give you a good starting point that you can fine tune later depending how your landscape responds to the watering routine.
  • Watering day(s)
    • The ideal configuration here is a “Custom Day” mode where you set the controller to run one day of the week (your designated watering day is recommended); you can turn off all other days. 
    • Once-a-week watering with a slightly longer run time helps establish deeper roots and healthier landscapes.

When programming the irrigation controller, remember to check current watering restrictions and set run times accordingly. SAWS residential customers are all assigned a watering day based on the last digit of their address (0-1 Mon, 2-3 Tue, 4-5 Wed, 6-7 Thu, 8-9 Fri). 

Now that you’ve taken control of your controller, it’s also a good idea to get familiar with the Seasonal Adjust setting and how it can help you save time and water throughout the year. 

If you need additional help, here’s a helpful how-to video on the basics of setting an irrigation controller. Or, schedule a free no-contact irrigation consultation!

Picture of Seth Patterson
Seth Patterson
A naturalist by nature, Seth spent his early childhood crawling through creeks and caves of the Hill Country before moving to South Texas where he found his passion in nature photography. Now an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer, Seth follows the water wherever he lands and truly takes to heart his role as a conservation consultant for San Antonio Water System.
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