The Toro Intelli-Sense controller automatically changes its irrigation schedule in response to changes in the weather.

Intelli-Sense Smart controllers reduce water waste and irrigation costs

The rapid adoption of ‘smart’ controller technology by water purveyors in the West has been supported by multiple independent studies proving the efficiency of this water management practice. One of these technologies is earning noticeable praise from irrigation professionals, property managers and municipal officials for its water savings, reliability and overall contribution to healthier landscapes. That ‘smart’ technology is Toro’s popular line of Intelli-Sense™ controllers.

The Toro Intelli-Sense controller automatically changes its irrigation schedule in response to changes in the weather. This ensures that individual landscape zones receive precisely the correct amount of water – exactly when needed. Using a moisture depletion allowance model, soil is allowed to partially dry out so that deeper, healthier root growth is encouraged. The total process is based on the patented WeatherTRAK® scheduling engine, which combines site-specific information – plant type, soil type and amounts of sun/shade – with real-time ET (evapotranspiration) data gathered from over 27,000 weather sources across the country. Intelli-Sense controllers ensure landscapes gets the proper amount of water at rates the soil can absorb and the plant material can use. This helps to prevent wasteful urban runoff, which helps reduce unwanted pollution to waterways.

Intelli-Sense controllers received perfect performance scores for the Irrigation Association’s SWAT testing protocol, with 100% irrigation adequacy and 0% excess. And, Intelli-Sense units comply with most municipal or local government conservation and smart controller rebate programs.

Recent examples of Toro Intelli-Sense water-saving success occurred in very distinct climate conditions in Naples, Florida; Chandler, Arizona; and Northern California.

Mediterra, Naples, Florida

The use of Toro Intelli-Sense Series controllers in a Florida golf and luxury home development resulted in savings of more than 1 million gallons of water in just seven months. Management at Mediterra, a luxury community near Naples, reported using nearly 80 percent less water for irrigation in the first seven months of an Intelli-Sense test program. Irrigation managed by the Intelli-Sense controllers at seven test properties was compared to water use for irrigation at seven similarly-sized homes with similar landscaping.

Dennis Cafaro, general manager of Resource Conservation Systems, a company that provides non-potable water to master-planned communities, reported that properties equipped with the Intelli-Sense controllers used 1.23 million gallons less in irrigation water than the control homes.


“This has incredible implications for Florida, especially this time of year, when we’re hearing about water restrictions, drought conditions and conserving water,” Cafaro said in April 2008.

In the first seven months of the test, the Intelli-Sense systems used 40 to 80 percent less water, Cafaro reported. The difference could have been even greater, he said, but maintenance crews had to reduce the control group (non-Intelli-Sense) to just once a week to comply with water restrictions that took effect.

Water bills for properties using the Intelli-Sense controllers were $205 less per clock, or about $117 less per property. The Toro clocks cost $200 more than the traditional system and require a $4-per-month communications and calibration fee.

“Even with the initial costs and monthly fees, homeowners would start saving money by the second year, not to mention all the water they’re conserving,” Cafaro said.

The City of Chandler, Arizona

The City of Chandler’s Water Conservation Office (WCO) is helping city property owners acquire and become adept at programming smart controllers such as the Toro Intelli-Sense system controllers. To help defray the higher cost (compared to traditional controllers) of smart controllers, the WCO is offering a $200 rebate. Toro Irrigation personnel have helped the WCO staff train Chandler property owners on the Intelli-Sense technology and controller programming.

The WCO also compared water usage and water costs of properties using Intelli-Sense controllers to those using traditional controllers. In an analysis of one property that uses the Intelli-Sense technology, the WCO reported what it called “a significant reduction in water use when compared to the average of the previous three years.”

Indeed, that “significant reduction” was a water usage reduction of about 62%.  In the first nine months, the Intelli-Sense controller was used at the property, water consumption dropped from the historical average of 2,147,000 gallons to 821,000 gallons. That is a reduction of 1,326,000 gallons – a savings of nearly 62% of the water previously used historically.

Water cost savings ran as high as $739 in a single month. Even with the higher initial cost of the controller, an annual WCO fee ($98) and a one-time charge for converting control systems, the Intelli-Sense controller would begin to produce real net savings within a year of its purchase and installation.

The Frog Hollow Green Group, California

Ray Thengvall founded The Frog Hollow Green Group in 1979 and the Angels Camp, and is focused on delivering “Excellence in Irrigation.” Thengvall and his staff are dedicated stewards of the environment, as the company website ( notes: “Ray Thengvall…believes water is a precious commodity in the West and should never be wasted, even though his area is not under any restrictions. The Frog Hollow employs water-wise practices, while its knowledgeable staff designs hydraulically-engineered systems. The use of state-of-the-art equipment gives them the ability to irrigate landscapes in conjunction with satellite-monitored weather data.”

That leading-edge equipment referred to is the Toro Intelli-Sense Series controllers. The Frog Hollow Green Group staff uses Toro products on virtually every project, and Thengvall admires Toro for sharing his views of water management and efficient irrigation.

“They are on the cutting edge of water conservation and use,” he said. “Following their guidelines are the keys to a cost-effective system.”

The Frog Hollow Green Group appreciates that Toro Intelli-Sense controllers can be programmed to suit specific characteristics such as plant types, soil types, sun exposure, and other factors. The staff estimates that the Intelli-Sense technology it installs produces annual water savings of 10-60%, and that it reduces runoff by up to 70%. For a company with irrigation installations throughout Central and Northern California, those percentages translate to savings of millions of gallons of water.