One of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of proper irrigation maintenance is scheduling. Many irrigation managers, contractors and homeowners rely on the "spray zone 20 minutes, rotary zone 45 minutes—every other day" rule-of-thumb when setting up and maintaining irrigation controller scheduling. Relying upon rule-of-thumb irrigation scheduling can ultimately lead to wasted water due to overwatering, soil saturation and run-off.

With increasing awareness in the Western states regarding water conservation and management, it is only a matter of time before proper irrigation scheduling and water conservation will become mandated in this part of the country. Educating yourself now to meet the increasing demands for water conservation will help you to put more money into your customer’s pocket—possibly saving commercial customers thousands of dollars in wasted water.

Calculating scheduling times and run-times for efficient irrigation system operation is relatively straightforward once you realize that it is all based upon several key factors:- Evapotranspiration rate (Eto)
- Crop coefficient (Kc)
- Precipitation rate (Pr)
- System application efficiency (Ea)

*Evapotranspiration is variable by month, season and climate, and is available from the National Weather Service.*

*The crop coefficients of various plant materials are available from Rutgers University Horticulture Department.*

Pr = __96.25 x Total GPM of zone__

Total area of zone

Where: Pr = Precipitation Rate in inches per hour

Total GPM = Total flow of all sprinklers in a given area

Total area = The total square footage of irrigated area

96.25 = Constant used to convert area and flow into common units

Once the information has been gathered, the following formula from the Hunter Industries "Handbook of Technical Irrigation Information" can be used to determine zone run-time:

Pr x Ea

Where: T = Sprinkler run time in minutes

60 = Constant for conversion of area, flow, inches per hour and inches per day, into common units

Eto = Evapotranspiration rate in inches

Kc = Crop coefficient, percent

Pr = Precipitation rate of zone, in inches per hour

Ea = System application efficiency, percent

EXAMPLE:

Determine the monthly irrigation run-time for Mrs. Smith’s front lawn. Assuming no rainfall, the Eto for the month of July is 6.98", the Kc is 70% (cool season turf), the Pr of the zone is .43 inches per hour and the system application efficiency is 70%.

T =.43 x 0.70

T = __209.16__

T = 697.20 minutes per month or approximately 23 minutes per day

Always take the following into consideration when scheduling an irrigation controller:

- Amount of supplemental rainfall
- Soil type and infiltration rate
- Slope
- Depth of root zone
- Allowable "watering window"
- Township watering restrictions (if any)