Happy Smart Irrigation Month! We're right in the middle of summer, so now is a good time to review some reminders on what it means to be "water wise".
The Irrigation Association, which promotes Smart Irrigation Month, encourages ways to help all of us be better water consumers. They have A LOT of great ideas to help us. Even picking just a few that work best for you can help! Here are some to consider:
- Plant right.
- Landscape to suit your lot. Choose grass or plants that have low water requirements and will thrive in your local climate. Consider your lot’s exact features, including sun and shade, dry and damp areas, plant size, and how you plan to use each section of your yard.
- Mulch well around plants, bushes and trees. Using 2 to 4 inches of mulch reduces evaporation, moderates spikes and lows in soil temperatures, improves water penetration and helps control weeds that compete for water.
- “Hydro-zone” your yard. Grouping plants with similar moisture needs in the same area makes it easier to make sure they get the water they need without overwatering. Separate plants from grassy areas, which have different water requirements.
- Plant in spring or fall. Avoid summer, when hotter temperatures mean plants need more water to become established.
- Save grass for functional areas. Plant grass in play zones and other areas where it will be used and enjoyed. Instead of planting turf on sleep slopes or other hard-to-water spaces, consider ground cover, perimeter plants or mulch.
- Invest in an irrigation system.
- Install excess capacity. Irrigation zones are areas that are watered by the same irrigation valve and plumbing. Installing extra connections now makes it easier and less expensive to expand your irrigation system later.
- Think smart. Include “smart” controls that automatically adjust watering based on rain, soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.
- Check water pressure. Low or high pressure can seriously affect sprinkler performance; choose sprinklers based on the water pressure on your site.
- Meet code requirements. Include the right backflow prevention device for your area. Required by the National Plumbing Code for all irrigation systems, backflow prevention devices prevent irrigation system water from contaminating the water supply.
- Look for savings. Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before finalizing your new system, consult with your local water provider.
- Water wisely.
- Get in the zone. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure, and soil in that section. Different zones will almost always need different watering schedules.
- Consider soil type. Type of soil determines how quickly water can be absorbed without runoff. Watering more than soil can absorb causes runoff and waste.
- Don’t send water down the drain. Set sprinklers to water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or buildings.
- Water at the best time. Watering during the heat of the day may cause losses of up to 30 percent due to evaporation. Prevent water loss by watering when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool — typically between the evening and early morning.
- Water more often for shorter periods. For example, setting your system to run for three, 5-minute intervals lets soil absorb more water than watering for 15 minutes at one time, reducing runoff.
- Maintain and upgrade your system.
- Inspect your system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged sprinkler heads, and other problems. Clean clogged screens and micro-irrigation filters as needed.
- Install a rain shutoff switch. These inexpensive sensors can be retrofitted to almost any system and help compensate for natural rainfall by turning off your system in rainy weather.
- Consider “smart” technology. Climate or soil moisture sensor-based controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions and then automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape.
- Consider low volume, micro-irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Drip (or trickle) irrigation, micro spray jets, micro-sprinklers and bubbler irrigation all apply a very small amount of water, slowly and precisely, minimizing evaporation, runoff and overspray.
- Look for savings. Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before upgrading your new system, consult with your local water provider.
Review DrinkTap's Water Conservation section for even more great ideas.