As summer draws closer, two north metro cities hope their residents will take advantage of a deal that will not only save them money, but also save water.
Hugo and Lino Lakes are both offering Rachio 3 Smart Irrigation Controllers to residents at a deeply discounted price while supplies last.
“The largest water use category in the city during the growing season is outdoor irrigation, which may account for 60% of the water use for a typical home,” said Lino Lakes Environmental Coordinator Andy Nelson. “Roughly 50% of the water used for outdoor irrigation can be attributed to overwatering, evaporation and non-target watering. By making sure lawns are only getting as much water as they need to remain green and healthy, residents will be able to drastically reduce water demand in the city.”
The Rachio 3 Smart Irrigation Controller optimizes water use in ways that traditional clock-based controllers, which irrigate on a set time schedule, cannot. Smart controllers work not only by using advanced scheduling based on lawn characteristics, but also by connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi and reading local weather reports and forecasts to decide whether or not your yards requires additional water. The controller can be controlled by your smartphone or smart home device.
“By replacing a standard clock timer with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense labeled irrigation controller, an average household can save anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 gallons of water annually,” explained Hugo Community Development Assistant Emily Weber.
The University of Minnesota conducted a study in Woodbury that showed these controllers can save an average of 50% of outdoor water use for homes.
The Lino Lakes City Council discussed investing in the controllers during budget discussions last year and revisited the topic last month, when the council authorized city staff to purchase 100 Rachio 3 controllers as part of a pilot program. The controllers were purchased through the city’s water utility fund, but Nelson said the hope is to receive grant funding for the program in future years.
Water conservation has become even more important in the city of Lino Lakes after the Minnesota Department of Health notified the city in November 2019 that a couple of its municipal wells had levels of manganese that were higher than recommended.
Last summer, the city issued a watering ban from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to try to keep manganese at appropriate levels. The city was not using the wells that had higher manganese levels but was concerned it would need to tap into those wells if it couldn’t keep up with summer water demands.
The city of Lino Lakes is selling the controllers for $50.88 each. Residents who are interested in purchasing a controller must fill out an application on the city’s website at linolakes.us. Once approved, residents will need to drop off payment at City Hall and pick up their controller.
As of press deadline, Nelson said about 33 of the controllers are still available.
“Conserving fresh water while making sure that our use is responsible and sustainable will ensure that this precious resource is available for future generations,” Nelson said.
The city of Hugo was one of 19 municipalities to participate in the Metropolitan Council's water efficiency grant program from 2015-17. Because of the grant, the city was able to offer rebates to residents who purchased new WaterSense toilets, irrigation controllers and washing machines to replace inefficient products.
“The council has been looking for ways to improve water conservation throughout the city,” Weber said. “We want to be able to maintain yards while also being conscious of our water supply.”
This time around, Weber said the council wanted to try something new, but also try to be more efficient when it comes to conserving water. The city of Hugo applied for and received a grant through the Met Council’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Fund in 2019. The grant program runs through 2022.
The city chose to purchase 309 Rachio 3 Smart Irrigation Controllers up front, with the hope that all of the controllers will eventually be sold and the city can then be reimbursed. The grant also has a match requirement; the Met Council funds 75% of the program and the city is responsible for the other 25%.
“We are hoping this is something residents will be interested in. It saves them money on the up-front cost and in the long run,” Weber said.
The city of Hugo is selling the controllers, which are valued at $230, for $30. Residents who are interested in purchasing a controller must fill out an application on the city’s website at ci.hugo.mn.us. Applications are also available in the most recent city newsletter. Once an application is filled out, residents need to mail a check to the city of Hugo or place their check in the drop box located outside the front doors of City Hall.
Once approved, the controller will be delivered right to your doorstep. As of press deadline, Weber said there are 150 controllers still available.
Weber wants to remind residents that installing a smart irrigation controller is not the be-all and end-all. “Residents are encouraged to maintain their irrigation system and make sure their sprinklers are working, that they are not clogged, there are no leaks … those are all things that can affect your system as a whole and whether or not it is the most efficient that it can be.”
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org