Torrey Hills considering ‘smart’ water system

Torrey Hills may become the second community in the city of San Diego to use a smart water irrigation system, which would help cut back on water use.

If the Community Planning Board applies soon, they could receive a rebate from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California of up to $96,000 through their Smart Water program. The funds have already been exhausted for 2009 so Andy Field, assistant deputy director in the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, suggested the board apply as soon as possible to get in line for 2010.

Mayor Jerry Sanders asked last year that San Diegans be vigilant in conserving water, but Mission Bay Park is the only area in the city that has a smart irrigation system in place.

Torrey Hills’ maintenance company Park West and Field presented the planning board with information on the systems during their Jan. 20. The board will now spend time researching the idea before making a final decision.

“It’s complicated and expensive,” Chairman Guy Ravad said. “It’s important we do our due diligence before we spend the money.”

The smart irrigation systems can tell when it is raining, when the dirt is adequately wet or if a sprinkler is malfunctioning. A central computer with remote communication operation abilities would control the system, saving on the cost of having someone come out and manually turn the system on or off, Field said.

The systems could provide approximately 10 to 20 percent in water usage savings and three different companies were recommended for consideration, including ET, Hydro Earth and Cal Sense.

Park West seemed to lean toward Cal Sense, a system that could tentatively cost $87,477 with the rebate already deducted, Field said.

San Diego already owns Cal Sense software, so the additional system cost would be approximately $4,800 over five years. The Hydro Earth and ET systems are less expensive up front, but could cost about $20,000 more over the next five years.