December 17, 2015
Facing mounting pressure from the state and the public, the city is turning to one of the few remaining options to save additional water: Technology.
Mission Viejo has installed new smart irrigation controllers at more than 30 neighborhood parks. They control existing sprinklers to emit the precise amount of water that grass needs to stay green, taking into account variables such as weather, soil and shade.
“Our system mimics Mother Nature as close as science and technology will allow,” said Brian Smith, CEO and founder of Irvine-based Signature Control Systems. “The science tells us just how much the plant needs. The technology then delivers that amount with extraordinary precision. The result is maintained landscapes matched with extraordinary water savings.”
Smith said Signature’s patented technology solves problems with traditional irrigation controllers, such as uneven watering and sprinklers turning on during rain.
Signature’s controllers are connected to the Internet and receive information from the cloud-based software.
Landscapers can monitor and control sprinklers using Signature’s mobile phone app whenever, wherever.
Castlewood Park, for instance, with about an acre of turf, is divided into 20 microclimate areas. Employees can enter variables for each area into the cloud system. Then the software calculates how much water each area needs to within fractions of an inch, using hourly weather data.
City staff and Signature are currently loading the detailed database into each of the controllers, Assistant City Manager Keith Rattay said Tuesday. The system is scheduled to be operational at the start of the year.
The city struck an agreement with Signature to install 72 smart controllers at 32 of the city’s 53 neighborhood parks for $208,951. About 40 percent of the cost is expected to be funded by rebates from the Metropolitan Water District.
Mayor Frank Ury, who proposed the project, said the city can save $35,000 a year if the new system cuts water use by 10 percent at these parks. That means the project could pay off the city’s spending in about three years.
At that rate, the city can also save 68 million gallons of water, enough to fill more than 100 Olympic-size pools, in five years, Ury said.
He called Signature’s smart irrigation controllers “a game changer” for policymakers because it can recover investment quickly and requires minimum human resource.
He said he will ask the City Council early next year to install Signature controllers at the rest of the parks.
Smith said Signature’s irrigation system has been used in the United States, in the Middle East, Europe, South Africa and Australia since the company was founded in 2000.
Casta del Sol, a gated 55-plus community with 1,927 residents in Mission Viejo, installed Signature’s smart controllers in 2003, General Manager Josh Hodosh said.
He said he didn’t know how much savings in water or water bills the smart controllers have achieved over the years.
“It’s better than what we had,” Hodosh said. “We’ve enjoyed it. It was worthwhile.”
Rattay said the city would probably find out savings from the new system in late spring when the weather warms up again.