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Lawns & Irrigation
Tips for Efficient Irrigation

1) Frequency Adjustment: Set your irrigation clock for the correct watering day according to the last number in your street address.

2) Duration: Apply 3/4" per irrigation.

     Sprinkler head type
     Suggested run-time
     Fixed spray pop-ups
     20 minutes
     45 minutes
     Micro-irrigation / drip
     45 minutes
    Note: Application rates and system design can vary significantly. Always check amount with tuna can calibration.

3) Rain shut-off devices:
Turn ON roof mounted rain shut-off device and check for proper operation. Set to turn off after 1/2" of rainfall. If non-functional, replace or upgrade to a Soil Moisture Sensor (see tip #6).

4) Mature landscape plants don't need as much water. Well-established trees and shrubs don't need weekly irrigation. If shrubs and trees are 5+ years old, turn down or turn off individual emitters, or entire zones if not used for turf irrigation.

5) Install
micro-irrigation in landscape beds, or water by hand as necessary.

6) Soil moisture sensors:
Replace roof-mounted rain shut-off device with a soil moisture sensor installed in the ground. (Wired and wireless versions are available.) When properly installed and calibrated, these devices can provide significant water savings over traditional rain shut-off devices. Important note: To achieve maximum savings, follow installation and calibration instructions closely. Improper location, installation, or calibration of sensors can reduce or eliminate water savings.

7) Mulched landscape beds:
Replace irrigated turf with mulched landscape beds of drought-tolerant plants. (How much mulch do you need? Use a mulch calculator like this one to determine how many bags or cubic yards to get.)
Remember to modify the irrigation system by replacement with micro-irrigation, or by capping existing emitters. (And remember, always get HOA approval first.)

8) Manual operation:
Operate the irrigation system manually. Shut it off entirely during the rainy season for maximum savings.

9) Seasonal adjustment:
Use 'Seasonal Adjustment' or 'Water Budget' settings during cooler months. Irrigation needs are up to 50% less in the winter dormant season.

10) Programming problems:
Periodically check controller programming. In particular, check for duplicate programs, multiple start-times, excessive run-times, etc. (See "Programming Problems" section below.) These issues are easy to overlook, but are frequently identified as the cause of excessive water consumption.

Programming Problems

Sprinklers can use more than 1,000 gallons per hour they run. Even when used efficiently, sprinklers account for more than half of the typical Floridian's water bill. Accidentally programming too many start-times can suddenly cause the sprinkler's usage to double, triple, or worse... Because over-watering can encourage weeds, pests, and turf disease, this type of common mistake doesn't just waste water (and money); it can even harm the lawn you're trying to keep green.

How does this happen?

Modern irrigation controllers contain a variety of high-tech features - multiple programs, multiple start-times, custom watering intervals, etc. - which can provide a homeowner with flexibility for handling a range of complex watering situations. However, simple mistakes in programming can turn these features into major water wasters...

For example, in one common irrigation controller, you can schedule:
A)  Up to three active Programs (A/B/C)
B)  Multiple start-times (up to four start-times per program, or 12 total)
C)  Customizable watering days, with options including:
day(s) of the week

even/odd (by date)

'interval' watering (i.e.: daily, every other day, every third day, etc.)

A real example:

Pasco County Utilities’ Customer Information & Services received a call from a concerned homeowner whose water bill had unexpectedly skyrocketed. When asked about sprinkler usage, the customer stated, “We only water once a week, 15 minutes per zone.”

To assist with troubleshooting and verify the billed usage, flow data was downloaded from the meter. Analysis of the data identified a pattern of timed, overnight, high-volume usages – each lasting nearly nine hours!  This was certainly different than the “…15 minutes per zone…” this homeowner believed was scheduled.

A close examination of the sprinkler controller identified the following cause:

“[…] The irrigation controller was set with four start-times on Program ATherefore, the system was running four times during the night which accounts for both the volume used and the nine-hour run-time in the profile [...]”

Another example of "irrigation gone wrong"

In this example, Program A was successfully turned OFF. However, when attempting to turn off Program B, the homeowner didn't notice that Program B contained two start-times.

Because the homeowner didn't check for additional start-times on Program B, the second start-time remained active. In other words, the homeowner only eliminated 1/2 of the irrigation cycles running in Program B... but sincerely believed the sprinklers had been turned off.

Start-time 1 display off
Start-time 1, display = off. Start-time 2, display = 4 a.m.

Because the remaining start-time was set for 4 a.m., the homeowner was unaware of the usage...until the water bill arrived.

 Key Terms
Tells the system when to turn on and begin running a program.

 Run-time Tells the system how long to run a given zone/station before proceeding automatically to the next zone with a run-time programmed.

A program only requires ONE start-time to run EVERY ZONE. Once a program starts running, each zone that has a run-time will automatically run, in sequence. No extra start-times are needed!*

*Q: Why do sprinkler controllers have so many high-tech features and settings? It seems like a recipe for disaster!

A: When used carefully, features such as the ability to program multiple start-times are actually intended to help save water. Such features allow increased flexibility in irrigation scheduling, even in the trickiest situations.

Example: If your soil is compact, and your yard has steep slopes, water probably tends to run off, rather than soaking in. With the capability to program multiple start-times, the controller could allow you to program a cycle and soak schedule. This technique uses a series of very brief watering cycles, with adequate time between to allow the water to sink in, thus minimizing runoff.

            Did you know? “Cycle-and-soak” is a common technique on golf courses.

Example 2: You have five irrigation zones. You’ve just re-sodded Zone 3. You can use Program A to run the typical once-per-week schedule for Zones 1, 2, 4 and 5, while Program B can handle a custom sod establishment schedule just for Zone 3. This allows the new sod to receive the extra water it needs without overwatering the rest of the landscape.

Remember! Be sure to delete Program B once the sod is fully established!

Useful online tutorials - Checking programming on sprinkler timers
Learn how to check for multiple start-times. Verify the total run-time for all zones.

Note: The following URLs have been compiled for educational purposes. Inclusion of a website in this list does not imply endorsement of a brand, company, or product by Pasco County or Pasco County Utilities. Pasco County Utilities is not responsible for the creation or maintenance of the content included in these external links. Please let us know of any issues with the links below.


“Hunter X-Core Programming Overview and Setting up Program A.”

– Basic setup of Program A.

“Hunter X-Core Programming Multiple Programs and Additional Features”

– How to advance to the next program.

“Programming Multiple Programs Part 2 of 4: Program A”

– Check which program is currently selected. Learn how to advance to the next program.

“Programming Multiple Programs Part 3 of 4: Program B”

– Selecting between Program B and Program A.

“Canceling Extra Start Times on Hunter Controller”

 – How to remove extra start-times from the X-Core Controller.


Rain Bird

“How to Program a Rain Bird ESP-ME controller”

(1:08) Discusses setting and removing start-times. Switching between programs and setting up different zones.

“Rain Bird® ESP-Me: Total Run Time Calculator”

Quickly check the total run-time for each Program on the ESP-ME controller.

“Rain Bird ESP Modular Controllers: Manual On & Off Adjustment”

How to manually run a program. How to turn the system OFF to prevent watering.


“Toro DDC-8 Controller (Model 53808) - How to Set up Program A” – How to turn off a station’s watering time. Also describes how to set up Programs B and C, and how to check the current program.

“Toro DDC-8 Controller (Model 53808) - How to Set up Run Times” – How to adjust or turn off run times for a specific zone.

“Toro DDC-8 Controller (Model 53808) - How to Set Up Watering Days”

“Toro DDC-8 Controller (Model 53808) - How to Set Start Times”

“Toro DDC-8 Controller (Model 53808) - How to Seasonally Adjust”

Too much of a good thing?

Turf-grass needs water. But did you know that over-watering grass can do at least as much harm as under-watering?

Frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow root development, and can increase a lawn’s susceptibility to diseases, insect damage, root-rot, and weed growth.

In contrast, a thorough, less frequent watering schedule helps to promote deeper, healthier root development. Deeper roots, in turn, allow your lawn to better withstand hotter, drier weather, while making the turf more resistant to pests, weeds, and disease.

Applying approximately ¾” - 1” of water per-week is typically sufficient to maintain healthy turf-grass in our region. (That equals about 2 gallons of water per square foot of lawn, per month...)

 Shallow vs. deep watering

When in doubt, “Let Your Lawn Tell You When to Water” – UF/IFAS Publication

g height: Did you know?

Aside from over-watering, one of the most harmful common turf mistakes involves mowing height. Varieties like St. Augustine-grass and Bahia-grass thrive when mowed at heights of 3" - 4"Shorter mowing heights invite problems including stress, scorching, weeds, and disease.

Compounding the problem, grass that has been “scalped” often turns brown, which can be mistaken for a lack of water, leading to over-watering  of already stressed turf,... which invites disease, weeds, insects - and the cycle continues.

Lawn mower  Remember: For healthy turf, raise your mower to a higher setting.

Water Conservation Tips for Lawns & Irrigation
  • Be rain smart. Adjust your irrigation system as the seasons change.
  • Consider dripping. Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use.
  • Did you know? Florida law and Pasco County Ordinance now require that anyone who purchases and installs an automatic lawn sprinkler system must install a rain shutoff device or switch which will override the irrigation cycle of the system when adequate rainfall has occurred. To retrofit your existing system, contact an irrigation professional for more information.
  • Do not drown your lawn! Most of the year, lawns only need one inch of water per week. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every five to seven days in the summer and every 10 to 14 days in the winter. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Buy a rain gauge and use it to determine how much rain your yard has received.
  • Do not over fertilize your lawn. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Do routine inspections. Broken heads and leaking valves can greatly increase the sprinkler system's water usage. Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
  • Micro and drip irrigation are examples of water-efficient irrigation methods for landscape beds.
  • Raise the blade! Adjust the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.
  • Watch the clock! Water lawns during the early morning or late evening hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces water losses from evaporation.
  • Water only things that grow. Don't allow sprinklers to water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs...not the paved areas!

For More Information
For more information or to ask questions, email the Utilities Department or call at (727) 847-8145.