This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
NORTH LOGAN - Sure, Utah is well into its sixth drought year and the threat of water-use restrictions looms.
But you might hold off ripping up that Kentucky blue grass to make room for rock gardens and cactus. New smart control irrigation technology could keep that lawn lush, and slow the flow, too.
Steven Moore, founder and president of Irrisoft Inc., says his Weather Reach product turns sprinklers serving individual homes to sprawling corporate parks into truly automated, efficient and yet miserly watering systems.
The palm-sized, blue and black receivers constantly monitor and adjust watering times and frequency by processing climatological data - temperature, humidity, wind speed, etc. - transmitted hourly from weather stations and matching that information with specifics about your landscape and plant life.
Irrisoft, a subsidiary of Campbell Scientific Co., claims water savings from 20 percent to 50 percent using its $485 unit. Now, the combination of continued arid weather - along with results from several successful field tests - have ignited sales.
"We had hoped to sell 1,000 units in our first two years, and we did that in 20 months," Moore said. "Now, sales are really picking up and we're in accelerated production. . . . We anticipate selling 400-600 units this year in Utah alone. Last year, we sold 50 here."
Weather Reach receivers are being evaluated by several Salt Lake area parks, public buildings, condominium complexes and business campuses. Moore also said he has answered queries from, or arranged test runs of the unit with public schools, hospitals and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Several agencies - the Southern Nevada Water Authority; Orange County, Calif.; and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District among them - offer varying incentives or rebates to clients using smart control technologies.
Test results for Weather Reach have been impressive: Irrisoft documented 12 million gallons saved over four months on two Orem city parks in late 2002; units installed at several Houston area sites last fall recorded savings of between 44 percent and 80 percent; and the receivers accounted for water-use reductions of between 13 percent and 47 percent at four private properties in Massachusetts last spring and summer.
But perhaps one of Weather Reach's biggest success stories has come much closer to home. For the past few years, the state Division of Water Resources has tested a number of smart controllers, among them Weather Reach and its primary competitor, WeatherTRAK.
WeatherTRAK, sold by HydroPoint Data Systems of Petaluma, Calif., also wirelessly connects to weather data, but on a daily basis. Testing concluded last year showed savings of 25 percent for both average and high-water users who were part of a 30-home Salt Lake Valley residential test.
Now, it is Weather Reach's turn, and Eric Klotz, chief of Water Resources' conservation, education and use programs, is excited by what he has seen. The Utah units have been tested on sprinkler systems in six North Salt Lake parks - and Klotz's own home.
For the 2000-01 watering year, the parks used nearly 25.3 million gallons. In the past two years - with Water Reach technology in control - usage was cut by more than 7.7 million gallons, or 31 percent.
"It worked well saving us water," said parks superintendent Mike Cooper. "We're looking at keeping our system and probably will add to it."
Klotz also was pleasantly surprised by the performance of Irrisoft's product at his North Salt Lake residence.
"I was quite the water conservationist already, but I saved 200,000 gallons over the past two years," he said. "My grass still looks fine, and in some cases, the parks people say their grass even looks better."
The future for such water-management technology will only grow. Even when Utah's drought ends, Klotz says, the state's residential and business growth will continue to put the squeeze on the region's water supplies.
"To have enough water for future growth, the state has set a goal of reducing per capita water use 25 percent," he said. "The idea is to change lifestyles in general: You can keep the grass you have, but you need to learn to water it better."