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How To Make Smart Irrigation Month Work For You

For those of us who subscribe to the blog, every month is Smart Irrigation Month.  The good news for us is the Irrigation Association created Smart Irrigation Month as an initiative to increase public awareness of the value of water-use efficiency and grow demand for water-saving products, practices and services.   July is the selected month because it is typically the month water requirements are highest for landscapes, it’s typically the hottest month of the year, and a great time to check how well your irrigation system is watering.

Smart Irrigation Month is an industry campaign to increase public awareness of the value of water-use efficiency.  It’s an opportunity for all of us to:

Smart controllers are a great idea for Smart Irrigation Month.  They deliver exactly the right amount of water at the right time. Below are just a few of the advantages of using smart controllers:

  • Minimize overwatering while keeping your lawn and garden beautiful and healthy
  • Adjust watering automatically to account for rain and other conditions
  • Provide internet access making it easier to manage water
  • Provide flow sensing so you can eliminate water waste from breaks and leaks

With just a few simple strategies, it’s easy to save water, save money and see better results.

The Irrigation Association makes the following recommendations:

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
  • Keep soil healthy – Aerating your lawn and around trees at least once a year helps improve water penetration. When planting, turn and cultivate the soil and add compost or fertilizer to improve moisture retention and grow healthier plants that need less water to stay strong
  • 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
  • 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
  • Plant shade trees – The shade they cast creates natural “air-conditioning,” lowering air and soil temperatures, and reducing soil moisture loss
  • Maintain your yard regularly – A well-maintained yard requires less water, so weed, prune and mow as needed

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
  • Adapt watering to the season – Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller and adjust the watering schedule regularly based on seasonal weather conditions. Or invest in a smart controller so your system can make these changes automatically

Invest in an Irrigation System

  • Use components that provide flexibility – Different plants have different watering needs, and these needs may change over time. Your system should allow you to apply the right amount of water for each type of plant by the most effective method
  • 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.
  • Buy the best – Use the best components you can afford to minimize future maintenance and total lifetime cost of your system
  • Dig deep – Install lines deep enough to protect them from damage from aeration and other lawn maintenance
  • Look for savings – Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before finalizing your new system, consult with your local water provider
  • Hire carefully – Even the best irrigation system won’t perform well if installed incorrectly. When looking to hire a designer or contractor, always get multiple bids, check references and confirm all vendors are insured

Maintain & 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
  • Adjust sprinkler heads – Remove or correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Adjust sprinkler head positions and spray patterns to avoid watering sidewalks or structures and to provide necessary clearance over growing plants
  • Check the pressure –  Pressure can change over time and negatively affect system efficiency
  • Inspect the system for leaks – Leaks are a huge water waster. A good contractor can perform regular maintenance checks for leaks, broken or clogged spray heads, and other problems. Ask them to show you common problems to watch for between visits
  • 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
  • Have your system audited – Hire a professional to conduct an irrigation audit and uniformity test to verify areas are being watered evenly and appropriately, and make necessary adjustments
  • Look for savings –  Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before upgrading your new system, consult with your local water provider
  • Winterize in colder climates – An irrigation contractor with specialized equipment will flush out water that could freeze and crack pipes, valves and sprinklers

Work With an Irrigation Professional

  • Hire certified – Hire an irrigation professional that has specialized understanding of irrigation principles, technology and techniques
  • Hire local – Work with an irrigation professional that understands local environmental conditions and can help you choose low water plants and grass that will flourish in your climate and lot
  • Hire smart – Irrigation professionals help ensure that the work complies with local building codes for licensing, backflow prevention, installation and more

Thanks to the Irrigation Association for this  awesome list of tips and tricks. Whether your property  is large or small it’s easy to be smart!  I am sure I didn’t list all the ways to make smart irrigation month work for you.  If you have a few I missed please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Learn More About Richard Restuccia. If you like this post please consider subscribing to the blog or follow me on twitter at @H2oTrends.

 

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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.

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COMMENTS (2)

  1. Thursday, 11:09 andrea friese

    any ideas on recycling my run off water. I would like to do a storage tank to reclaim my water.

  2. […] might be considered to be a bit extreme, they do contain some truths. As Richard pointed out in his Smart Irrigation post last week, one of the first recommendations for Smart Irrigation is ”Choose grass or plants that have […]

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