How to Set Your Irrigation System for Watering Restrictions

It’s spring in central Florida and that means it’s the dry season. This year it’s drier than normal and with once a week watering restrictions in effect, the ability to operate your irrigation system efficiently is important.  It can be easy to avoid any issues if you follow a few simple, preventative maintenance steps.

  • Know when you can water. Remember, you don’t need to water at all; but when you do, you are restricted to once per week.  Find your day at tampabaywater.org/watersmarter.
  • Find your irrigation controller. If you don’t know where it is, then you probably don’t operate it. You can give this information to your irrigation or maintenance contractor and have them go through this process:
    • Make sure you have a new back up battery in the controller. If the electricity goes out, your system will probably reset to water in the middle of the day – meaning you are violating restrictions and could be at risk of receiving a citation from $100 to $450.
    • Check to make sure the time of day and day of week are correct. Daylight savings time is in effect, so you probably need to modify the settings.
    • Answer these questions: What zones are watering on which day? How long is each zone watering? Are you set to water on the correct day and within the time limits?
    • Make sure your irrigation system’s rain shut-off device works and is set to turn off the system when your yard receives, at least, ½ inch of rain. These devices are generally mounted in an unobstructed area outdoors and wired to either a specific part of the controller or the common wire of the irrigation system.
  • Turn on your system manually, operate each zone for no more than five minutes and visually inspect each zone. Identify whether each zone is operating correctly. Zones include:
    • Rotors (move and cover a large area),
    • Spray heads (don’t move and spray smaller areas) or
    • A combination of both. Take note of any heads that are broken, misdirected (watering the sidewalk), or are blocked. If you have any zones that have a combination of spray heads and rotors, you should see if you can modify this zone and put all of the same type of sprinklers in one zone.
  • Fix and adjust broken, misdirected or blocked heads. Broken, misdirected or blocked heads can create dry sections in your yard that will probably show up when it gets hotter and drier.
  • Set the controller to water the right amount and frequency to cope with this spring dry season.
    • Turf grass: Rotors generally apply ½ to ¾ inch per hour. So you would be safe to set them at 45 minutes to an hour once per week. Spray heads produce about double the amount of water, so 20 to 30 minutes per week should do.
    • Shrubs: If the zone is made up of spray heads, consider skipping a week through most of April and once per week in May.
  • Place a document in your controller that identifies zones labeled by number. You can quickly refer to this document for information on the duration of watering necessary in each zone, the frequency necessary for each zone, as well as what each zone does (uses spray heads or rotors).
  • Enjoy! You now have taken all the steps required to ensure an efficient, properly working irrigation system.