How Do I Turn Off My Sprinkler System?

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How Do I Turn Off My Sprinkler System?

Learn how to turn off your sprinkler systemHaving an automatic sprinkler system is great and all, that is, until you need to turn it off.  If you do not know how to turn off your sprinkler system, do not fret, you are not alone!  There are many home owners out there that are in the same predicament.  Learning how to turn off your sprinkler system is a very valuable tool to have in your memory bank, and one that will potentially save you water and money!

There are four main ways to turn off your sprinkler system – at the controller, at the point of connection, at the ball valve shut-off, or at the water meter.

At the Controller

The controller for the sprinkler system is typically located inside your garage, mounted to an exterior wall.  To turn off your sprinkler system at the controller, simply turn the dial/knob on the controller to the off position.  Most controller user manuals can be found online, such as Rain Bird controllers (

There are several reasons why you would need or want to turn off your sprinkler system at the controller.

It’s raining or there may be freezing temperatures.  Nowadays, most sprinkler systems are equipped with a rain and freeze sensor that senses precipitation events and freezing temperatures and automatically turns off the sprinkler so that it does not water.  However, if your sprinkler system does not have a rain or freeze sensor, or it is not functioning properly, be sure to keep an eye on the weather, as most cities in our area issue fines for watering when it is raining or temperatures are below freezing.

You are going on vacation.  If you are going on vacation for a certain period of time, you may wish to turn your sprinkler system off to prevent a situation where it may not turn off on its own once it starts running.  This is not all that common; however, if a controller is not operating properly, the sprinkler system can continue to run and run and run.  It may be an entire day or longer before a neighbor notices your malfunctioning sprinkler system and is able to get in touch with you and get it turned off.

It’s the winter season.  Fortunately in north Texas, we can get away without watering the lawn and other landscaping during the winter months as most vegetation goes into its dormant stage.  Turning off your sprinkler system during the winter months will help you to save water and money.

At the Point of Connection

Turning off your sprinkler system from the controller works well when there are no leaks and when your controller is functioning properly; however, if there is a leak, or your controller is broken, turning off the controller will not stop the flow of water to the sprinkler system.  Turning off the water to your sprinkler system involves closing the valves at the point of connection.  All sprinkler systems get their water from somewhere, and typically this point of connection is located in the vicinity of the water meter.

Inside the point of connection box are two levers.  One lever closes the valve that controls the water coming into the box from the water meter, and the other controls the water that leaves the box, going to your sprinkler system.  When it comes down to it, it does not matter which valve you close.  To close the valve, turn the lever 90 degrees (a quarter turn).  Turing it 180 degrees will close the valve then open it again.  Sometimes the levers are old and rusty or even broken off.  If this is the case, do not try to turn it. It is very possible that when it closes it will be stuck closed and then the whole control box it will have to be replaced (quite expensive).  In situations such as this, please call a professional.

At the Ball Valve Shut-off

Most newer systems are required to have a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ball valve that can be a more reliable, and easier, shut-off.  If your system has a ball valve, it is typically located in the parkway in front of the house, between the street and sidewalk.  It is located directly downstream from the point of connection, on the sprinkler system side, not the water meter side.  A PVC ball valve is very easy to use and will not rust out.  Just like with the control box above, turn the lever 90 degrees to close the valve and stop the flow of water to your sprinkler system.  If you do not have a PVC ball valve, it is about one quarter of the cost to replace the double check valve and does not require permitting or testing.

At the Water Meter

If all else fails, turn the water off at the water meter.  Unfortunately, this will turn the water off to your house too; however, this may be your best option to stop the uncontrolled flow of water down the street.  Unlike the double check valve and the PVC ball valve, you will need to turn the handle a full 180 degrees to stop the flow of water.  You will likely need a special key to open the water meter box.  This key can be found at most hardware stores.
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