The Riverhead Water District's top irrigation customers, including this Route 58 shopping plaza, can consume nearly 85 million gallons to water lawns and landscaping each season. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Automatic irrigation systems in Suffolk County would be required to be equipped with smart controllers and water conservation devices if a local law proposed by Legislator Al Krupski is enacted.

The law would require new automatic irrigation systems to be equipped with a weather-based irrigation controller and at least one rain sensor or soil moisture device or an on-site weather station.

Existing automatic irrigation systems would be required to comply with the law when they are activated, repaired or maintained. The law would prohibit activation of existing systems unless they are equipped with a minimum of one rain sensor device, soil moisture device, or an onsite weather station.

If enacted, the law would apply to both commercial and residential irrigation systems as of Jan. 1.

Land used in agricultural operations, nurseries and garden centers, and golf course tees, greens and fairways.

First violations of the law would carry a fine of $1,000 each. Second and subsequent violations would be subject to a fine of up to $2,500.

Approximately 70% of the water pumped by the Suffolk County Water Authority is used for outdoor purposes like landscape irrigation, according to SCWA data, Krupski said. As much as 50% of the water pumped for irrigation is wasted by overwatering caused by inefficiencies in irrigation methods and systems, Krupski said.

“There is nothing as frustrating as seeing lawns being watered when it is raining, or seeing irrigation runoff flowing on to the street and down storm drains,” Krupski said. “That runoff takes with it toxic substances, lawn chemicals and bacteria from animal waste and is not be recharging our aquifer, but polluting surface waters,” he said. It also depletes water quantity, he said. SCWA reports some communities are experiencing water quantity issues already, according to Krupski.

Krupski said he consulted with SCWA, municipal water suppliers, and the Irrigation Association of New York when drafting the legislation, and has had broad support for the proposed law.

The legislation is “the next logical step in ensuring we have abundant supply,” SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz said in a press release issued by Krupski yesterday.

Smart controllers are an effective way to decrease the amount of water people use to irrigate their lawns and make it even easier to follow the odd/even lawn watering schedule, Lefkowitz said.

A public hearing on the proposed legislation will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Suffolk County Legislature in Smithtown. Those interested in addressing the legislature may do so in person or in writing by email to Frank.Tassone@suffolkcountyny.gov or by U.S. mail to the Clerk’s Office, Suffolk County Legislature, P.O. Box 6100, Hauppauge, NY 11788. Audio testimony will also be accepted via phone at 631-853-3685; callers may leave a three-minute message.

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