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How To Adjust a Sprinkler Timer

Using an automated sprinkler timer to run a sprinkler system can ensure that trees and plants get watered consistently without under or overwatering. Sprinkler timers can be automatically set up for specific times and on specific days to comply with Carlsbad Municipal Water District water use rules. Sprinkler controllers, also called timers, should be monitored regularly and adjusted when there is a change in the season, when plants have become established or when it rains.  

First Step

The first step to adjusting your sprinkler timer is to follow the tips below to create a watering schedule for each sprinkler station or zone.

  • Check approved times and days allowed for landscape watering.
  • Draw a picture of the yard and the different watering stations or zones.
  • Gather information on how much water your trees and plants need in each station and how often. Different plants have different watering needs. A watering calculator is available on to help estimate the correct amount of water needed for different plants and create a customized watering schedule.
  • Create a watering schedule for each sprinkler station noting the days the system should run, what time watering should begin and how long each station should run.

Second Step

Program the sprinkler timer using the controller manual based on the information gathered in the first step. Most manuals are available on line by the manufacturer. For specific controller programming instructions, find the appropriate manufacturer and model number imprinted on your controller.

Search for the manufacturer on the internet and look for a link that provides programming instructions, manual or guide. The San Diego County Water Authority’s website provides links and phone numbers to most irrigation controller and sprinkler companies.

Third Step

Lastly, it is important to regularly monitor the controller and sprinkler system. The tips below are provided as a guide.

  • Use the watering schedule as a guide. Watch plants for stress and increase or decrease watering times accordingly.
  • Turn the controller to OFF or STOP when rain is expected or when the soil is already wet. Remember to turn the controller back on when the soil is dry.
  • Re-evaluate the watering schedule on a monthly basis and make changes when there is a change in the season, plants have become established or it rains.
  • Some timer types allow watering time adjustments by percentage to for more efficient irrigation based on estimated weekly watering needs. This percentage information is provided on the Watering Index listed on
  • Adjust sprinklers to prevent overspray and runoff.
  • Repair leaks and broken sprinklers.