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Landscape Irrigation – Saving Water Isn’t Complicated.

thinningneededExample of one year old planting needing plant density reduction.

Landscape irrigation water management does not have to be complicated. The majority of irrigation systems I evaluate have lots of room for improvement.  Often the initial improvements can be made, without costing much.  As a result, the return on the investment can be achieved quickly. It’s similar to beginning golf. At first breaking 100 is relatively easy and doesn’t take much of a time investment.  As scores get lower and lower, it takes more to improve. Unfortunately most irrigation systems are an equivalent of over 100 in golf.

Take time to evaluate your system. Find items to change or adjust with minimal time and effort, creating an immediate return on investment for the property.  Have a professional inspect the irrigation system and evaluate how it performs. This can be achieved with an irrigation evaluation or water audit.  You will discover areas to make improvements simply by taking time to evaluate a system and the only investment is time.

As I travel around the country, I like to ask, “How often are your controllers programmed?”  A common answer is, “Four times a year, corresponding to the seasons”. On some occasions I get a response, “Monthly,” but when probing, I often learn it’s actually monthly during the hot parts of the year, and spring and fall don’t get much attention. There is the rare occasion when the response is “Weekly.”  Significant gains in water management can be made with weekly adjustments to your controllers. Talk to your landscaper about the cost of having additional periodic adjustments made to the controllers.  Better yet, an investment in a smart controller will save significant amounts of water because the controller automatically adjusts 365 days a year. This requires an investment in the controller, but my experience has shown that many times the payback in water savings will offset the cost of the controller in less than 24 months.

One simple but effective way to save water is to cap non-essential sprinklers.  This sounds basic, but I am always surprised at how many times emission devices are duplicated.

Establishing and knowing your emergency response program will save water and money.  Murphy’s Law of Water Management states:  The three or four day weekend has a high probability for disaster for the irrigation system.  Simply knowing who to call, and making the information available to people on site when there is a water emergency, and how to shut the water off, can save thousands of gallons of wasted water.

Finally, reducing plant density will make significant gains. Many properties are overplanted at construction stage because owners want lush landscaping immediately. But, as plants grow, they become too large for the space and not only use too much water, but can also block proper irrigation resulting in water waste.

Please view these suggestions as a start.  There is much more that can be done, but I find addressing these items first will make significant gains in reducing water waste.

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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. As the Director for Water Management Solutions at ValleyCrest, Richard is our 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 including the Government and Regulatory Affairs Committee for the Irrigation Association, the San Diego Water Conservation Action Committee and was a founding member of the Central Control Users’ Group in the Central Valley of California.

COMMENTS (10)

  1. Thursday, 3:08 Alan Harris

    Depending on the part of the country you live in, trees and shrubs can be weaned off the need for irrigation thus saving a lot of water or only used a few weeks out of the year. Of course this assumes the system was designed correctly to begin with and the turf and beds are on separate zones.

  2. Friday, 8:22 Kiersten

    For those having difficulty with watering, Hydretain can help, especially with the effects caused by drought stress. Hydretain is a unique liquid product (not a wetting agent or super-absorbent polymer) designed to help reduce overall watering requirements by up to half or more. Once applied, Hydretain acts as a water magnet, converting water vapor in the soil into plant usable water droplets, thus allowing plants to thrive up to twice as long between periods of rainfall or irrigation. Visit https://www.hydretain.com for more information.

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  10. Wednesday, 9:33 Chris Shreenan

    I have the benefit of seeing shrubs responding to deep and less frequent irrigation as smart controller technology is applied. They go from sickly and pale green to lush and healthy since the irrigation scheduling is allowing oxygen back into the soil. It is wonderful to be part of something that is good, green, and profitable for the industry. I enjoy working with VC for they are focusing on landscape water management and partnering with them has brought great success. I am looking forward to 2012!

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