As more Californians become aware of the need to conserve water as a matter of lifestyle, more will become aware of the need to monitor their sprinkler system — the No. 1 source of residential water use.

With the right sprinkler timer, however, the monitoring can be less time-consuming and more efficient.

As of Jan. 1, Califonia’s new Green Building Code requires that new buildings with an irrigation system have so-called smart irrigation controllers, which automatically adjust sprinkler times based on the weather. It’s nothing new in Santa Barbara, which revised the City Landscape Design Standards in 2008, requiring smart irrigation controllers for landscapes that undergo the city’s design review process.

Smart irrigation controllers are also referred to as ET controllers, weather-based irrigation controllers, smart sprinkler controllers and water smart irrigation controllers. They are the new generation of irrigation timers that utilize prevailing weather conditions, current and historic rates of evaporation and plant transpiration, and other relevant factors to adapt the watering schedule to meet the plant’s actual water needs.

City residents who want to lose their old irrigation controller, or timer, can get help with the cost of upgrading to a smart irrigation controller. The Smart Landscape Rebate Program offers rebates on 50 percent of the cost of water-wise plants, irrigation equipment, smart irrigation controllers and mulch.

City of Santa Barbara water customers are eligible for up to $1,000 for single-family homes and up to $4,000 for businesses and HOAs.

The irrigation controller is important, but only one piece of the puzzle. Even the best, most water-efficient irrigation controller can’t make up for irrigation systems that are lacking proper maintenance and repairs.

To schedule a free evaluation of an irrigation system and take part in the rebate, call 805.564.5460. Click here for more information.

— Alison Jordan is a water conservation coordinator for the city of Santa Barbara.