Executive Summary

The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department worked aggressively to make its facilities more sustainable by using capital improvement funds to invest in energy and water efficiency technologies that better manage resources and save money. Utilizing proven technology means keeping trees and turf healthy, while preventing leaks and over use of water, saving time and labor, and achieving substantial long-run savings in operational costs.

In fall 2011, a task force was created due to increasing water rates.  It established a water budget baseline, revision of standard irrigation schedules, the need to improve water consumption reports, use of invested technology, training of key personnel, and the use of weather notification e-mails to proactively adjust watering schedules

The department saved more than $2 million over a three-year period by implementing the measures developed by the task force, and installing over 200 Calsense controllers throughout four park divisions

85-90% of Calsense parks use flow monitoring to detect breaks, save time identifying issues, and provide water usage reports, as well as use daily ET data to automatically adjust station run times

Parks and Recreation Director Inger Erickson allocated funding for fiscal year 2016-17 in the amount of $300,000 for each year over the next five years to continue with this program


Currently, there are 297 park facilities, including regional, neighborhood and mini parks, community and adult centers, recreational and sports facilities, water retention basins, golf courses and more. The city maintains more than 2,800 acres of turf. Calsense was introduced to the city via the Demo Program in 1996. A variety of manufacturer’s central control systems were installed in various projects throughout the city as well. Staff evaluated systems based on ease of use, functionality, field capability, reliability, service and support.


The biggest challenge during the implementation of central irrigation control technology was making the majority of park staff open to learn water management concepts, learn the technology implemented, and use it to its fullest capabilities so that the city could reap the rewards of being more efficient through computer automation. Trusting technology was a challenge either because system failure occurred, technology wasn’t installed correctly, was too complicated to learn or lack of training and support from the manufacturer was the norm. Numerous sites still had standard clocks where staff had to drive out to turn irrigation off when it rained and then two days later return to turn it back on.

How Calsense Helped

The Calsense technology differed from other products because it offered the power of the technology in the field controller. Real-time flow information could be viewed when using a flow meter on the controller display, review a list of recent leaks and breaks by station, and edit irrigation schedules instead of forcing the functions back to the office desktop computer. Staff using the product saw that it worked and began to embrace the capabilities and payoffs. Regular training and service occurred directly from Calsense professionals and over time the Calsense system became standard and was incorporated in city specifications for new construction.


The water use consumption for the Parks and Recreation Department during fiscal year 2012-13 was 4.4 billion gallons, compared to the baseline year of 2011-12 which was 4.8 billion gallons. Funding in the amount of $300,000 was given back to the department to invest into its water efficiency practices from the dollar savings instead of typically going back into the city’s general fund. This practice of re-investing in water management practices occurred in fiscal year 2013-14 as well. The city began upgrading to the Calsense ET2000e controller with cellular communications for reliable remote control of field units at all Calsense parks, using web-based software.  In fiscal year 2014-15, the department again received $300,000 from the yearly savings, as well as $600,000 from the Phoenix Water Department based on the confidence it had due to the accumulative savings year over year. Re-invested dollars occurred in fiscal year 2015-16 due to water savings once again. A track record of success was in place.

“I really appreciate the relationship that we have developed with Calsense. They are reliable, deliver what they promise, and respond to questions quickly. I have a comfort level with Calsense that their products are going to work the way they say they will, and know that we will continue to save money on water and labor implementing the Calsense Resource Management System.” 

Rick Templeton, Water Resource Specialist,

City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department

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