Carole Kirkpatrick, Jay Kirkpatrick and Citrus County
Utilities Water Conservation Specialist Edwin Bugbee
More than a year has passed since Citrus County Water
Resources Utilities Division visited Jay and Carole Kirkpatrick of Sugarmill
Woods to access water usage and inspect their water irrigation system.
The inspection was part of a free training program offered by the utility to
teach customers about their water use and irrigation system. The
Kirkpatrick’s average water use was about 26,000 gallons a month before the
In 2010, the Kirkpatrick’s bought their Sugarmill Woods home
and retired from Indianapolis. They made some smart investments, like new
landscape plants that could take hard freezes and plan to do some remodeling
inside soon. “We're going to replace toilets,” said Mrs.
Kirkpatrick. Toilets are the number one water using device inside the
home and replacing pre-1995 toilets qualify Citrus County Utilities customers
for a $100 account credit.
The Kirkpatrick’s scheduled the visit because they wanted to
learn why water use changed from one month to the next while they were up
north. While customers are away, water use is usually only
outdoors. The fluctuations were likely the rain sensor stopping
irrigation. At the Kirkpatrick’s, each skipped irrigation saved about
3,500 gallons of water. “Now I'm beginning to understand why the bill is
fluctuating," said Mrs. Kirkpatrick.
Most rain sensors have cork inserts that expand after
rainfall, triggering a shutoff of the irrigation system. "How long
does the cork last in the rain sensor?" asked Mr. Kirkpatrick.
"Most manufacturers say about 3-5 years, but we often see them last only
2-3 years. We offer a $50 rebate when they are replaced,” said Citrus
County Utilities Water Conservation Specialist Edwin Bugbee.
The Kirkpatrick’s northern home does not have an irrigation
system. "We’ve never dealt with a system before," commented Mr.
Kirkpatrick. They are not alone. Many new residents need assistance
learning how to operate their irrigation system. Yet, this couple was not
at all surprised to learn that while in residence, about 90% of their water is
used to irrigate the landscape.
A review of the controller settings showed watering
was scheduled twice per week. Bugbee suggested reducing the irrigation to
once every two weeks from December through February. Even in Florida,
grass takes a break in the winter and needs much less water. Mr. Kirkpatrick
asked if irrigation should be scheduled more frequently as temperatures get
warmer. Bugbee said to increase frequency in March or April. Most
Florida grasses need ½” to ¾” of water about one day per week during the
The Kirkpatrick’s controller is older and likely had not
been replaced since initial installation. The group discussed features of
newer controllers that offer built in water-saving features that automatically
adjust irrigation year-round. The utility offers a $150 rebate for
installing Water-Sense labeled models.
Together, Bugbee and Mr. Kirkpatrick walked each zone of the
irrigation system to identify concerns. The system has all sprayhead
zones, so Bugbee suggested the runtimes be reduced to only 20 minutes per
zone. He also pointed out several heads that could be capped
because they were irrigating mature shrubs, which do not need supplemental
water once established. According to billing data, the modifications the
couple made saved over 900 gallons per irrigation cycle.
The Kirkpatrick’s said their biggest take-away from the
visit was the many options they had to reduce water use, stating "Based on
what we have learned, there are steps we can take. It will be interesting to
see how much it will reduce our bill." A review of the Kirkpatrick’s water
use since the visit shows they are now averaging about 14,000 gallons of water
per month, which cut water costs from about $52 a month to $22. Way to go
Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick!