Water Less Heroes: One man’s story

Art Gallo speaks with Deirdre Irwin about his weather-based controllers

Art Gallo speaks with district Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin about a water-saving project he is undertaking, showing her his weather-based controllers.

Meet Art Gallo, a Winter Springs resident whose home irrigation system is serving as a pilot project that, in the future, could help other homeowners throughout the city cut back on outdoor water use.

Gallo, a retired U.S. Navy helicopter pilot, saw a television segment about a high-tech lawn watering system controller and decided to learn more about how he could improve his water savings.

“The TV segment got me started looking into things,” Gallo says. “I began researching the rules about landscape irrigation and called the St. Johns River Water Management District.”

Gallo got in touch with district Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin, who was impressed by Gallo’s curiosity and his tenacity. She shared information with him about “smart” lawn-watering systems.

“I never expected to hear from Art again but the next thing I know, I received a draft PowerPoint presentation from him,” Irwin recalls. “It was obvious that he had really done his homework.”

“Once I grab onto something, I won’t let go,” Gallo says. “What’s surprising to learn is how many gallons of water you’re actually pouring on your lawn.”

The controllers Gallo champions are weather-based and Wi-Fi enabled, which means they can be operated from a computer or cell phone. Weather-based controllers monitor changing weather conditions to prevent unnecessary watering and adjust a watering schedule to meet the needs of the plant or soil. With half of all water used in an average household going to outdoor irrigation, this technology can have a significant impact on water conservation.

It was obvious that he had really done his homework.

Deirdre Irwin, District Water Conservation Coordinator

Gallo wound up presenting information about the environmental and potential cost-saving benefits of these smart irrigation systems before the Winter Springs City Commission. Irwin bolstered Gallo’s pitch by sharing information about the district’s water conservation rebate programs, funding programs and landscape watering ordinances with the city’s customer service manager, Mike Maximenko.

Soon after, Maximenko contacted Gallo and made an offer: Winter Springs wanted Gallo to initiate a pilot program to gather data on the conservation benefits of using a smart controller. To gain additional data, Gallo invited his next-door neighbor, Larry Hartman, to join him in the study. The resulting data might be used for the city to justify a larger outdoor water conservation program in the future.

“Mr. Gallo impressed us all with his subject matter knowledge and enthusiasm to create positive change for the community, Maximenko says. “The pilot study is underway with great interest in the results. We are thankful to Mr. Gallo for providing the opportunity to work with him and learn the water-saving potential of this exciting new technology.”

Gallo is optimistic and happy to pave the way for greater involvement in outdoor water conservation.

“We hope that the data we gather will be very helpful to the entire community,” Gallo says.