TampaGov home page
             My TampaGov    en Español

Irrigation Catch Can Test

Does Your System Measure Up?

Record Sheet For Conducting a Catch-Can Test (PDF version)


Use this record sheet to conduct a simple catch-can test and find out how much water your sprinkler system applies. This will help you determine if you need to alter the system or make time clock adjustments to prevent over- or underwatering your landscape.



  • Twenty (20) straight-sided containers of the same size
  • Ruler
  • Stopwatch, watch or kitchen timer
  • This record sheet
  • A pen or pencil

Step1: Place the containers randomly underneath the spray pattern of one zone. You will need to repeat these steps in each zone.

Step 2: Turn on the sprinklers in that zone for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Turn off the sprinklers and measure the depth of the water you collected in each container.

Step 4: Record the amount of water (in inches) that you collected for each container.


1_____  2_____  3_____  4_____  5_____  6_____  7_____  8_____  9_____  10_____

11_____  12_____  13_____  14_____ 15_____  16_____  17_____  18_____  20_____


                                    Total of All Containers in Inches ___________

Step 5: Compare each container's water content to determine if the amount is the same between them. If any discrepancies exist, changes will need to be made to sprinklers or piping so that the water is applied uniformly in the zone. Alterations need to be finished prior to continuing.


Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are there areas receiving much more water than others? Much less water?

  2. Do any sprinklers need to be added or changed so that water is applied evenly?

  3. Are sprinklers throwing water over 80 percent or more of the distance to adjacent sprinkler heads?


Step 6: Add all container measurements together and divide by the number of containers to obtain the average depth of the containers in that zone.

________________________ ÷ _______________________ = _____________________

Total of all containers number of containers used = zone's average water depth in inches


Step 7: Multiply the zone's average water depth by four to obtain the zone's hourly rate of application.

____________________ X 4 = __________________

Zone's average water depth X 4 = zone's hourly application rate in inches per hour


Step 8: Determine if you are overwatering or underwatering within the zone. Most plants and lawns require only ½" to ¾" of water when plants show signs of stress. Using the zone's hourly application rate, consult the guide below to determine how long it will take to apply ¾" of water.


Zone's hourly application rate





Amount of time to run each zone to deliver ¾"

90 min. run time

45 min. run time

30 min. run time

23 min. run time


Step 9: adjust your sprinkler system timer to deliver the appropriate amount of water for the zone.


Step 10: Repeat for each zone. The catch-can test should be repeated any time the sprinkler system experiences changes, such as the addition of sprinklers, valve replacement, or water source change.


Sprinkler System Terms To Know


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to provide step-by-step instruction on sprinkler system repairs and design issues, but created to be a checklist for homeowners desiring to know more about efficient sprinkler system management. Equipment operation manuals should be consulted for proper use and repair instructions. Many manufacturers provide the manuals electronically on their website. It is suggested that the assistance of a professional licensed irrigation contractor be sought for those tasks beyond the knowledge and abilities of the homeowner. Persons involved in the creation, production, or delivery of this information shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages (including property damages, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, etc.) arising out of the use of this information, or any omission or inaccuracy of any information.


* Adapted from a publication created by Christine Claus, St. Petersburg Water Resources Department, and Dr. Joan Bradshaw, University of Florida IFAS, with funding provided by the Pinellas-Anclote River basin Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.


(page last reviewed: 11/22/13)