Get wise about lawn irrigation and water conservation

Get wise about lawn irrigation and water conservation

The sustained droughts of the past eight years have had a lasting impact on how homeowners think about outdoor watering throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

Water conservation ordinances are more prevalent. Public water rates are on the rise. In the summer, mandatory water restrictions are enacted with increased frequency.

Landscape irrigation accounts for as much as half of all water used during warm weather months. So it’s important to inspect your irrigation system, know how to work it and assess your ability to manage it.

Without proper monitoring, you run the risk of a faulty system that brings real consequences: higher water bills, and damaged trees and shrubs.Take a few minutes to review your system. You might want to call a professional instead. But before you do, check out what some experts recommend.

“One of the things I tell my customers to do is walk around their yard and look for leaks (areas that constantly stay wet) and broken sprinkler heads,” says David Robertson, owner of highly rated EcoSystems Services in Roswell, Ga. “Run your system through its zones. Check to be sure shrubs and plants are not blocking sprinklers. Often the landscape has matured since the system was installed and the water doesn’t reach intended areas.”

Homeowners also want to note any areas where the sprinklers water the sidewalk, driveway or other hard surfaces. This wastes water and money. Robertson also recommends having an irrigation professional do a water audit of your system to gauge its watering efficiencies to gauge its watering efficiencies.

“They have ‘smart’ controllers now that measure the moisture in the soil to determine when the system should run, rather than just measuring rainfall,” he says. “There are also new heads designed to conserve water. By retrofitting an existing system with these devices, homeowners have reduced their water use by as much as one-third.”

Angie’s List member Keith Dishman of Johns Creek, Ga., followed Robertson’s advice and realized he wasn’t getting uniform watering around his landscape. After EcoSystems revised his system and upgraded it with water efficient equipment, Dishman says he uses less water and has reduced his water bill.

“With the proper design, all areas get watered evenly and I can operate the system for shorter periods of time, which saves me money,” Dishman says. “Irrigation is all about the proper design and getting someone who really understands it.”

Still, irrigating too much and too often are two of the most common mistakes. Saturated soil invites disease and pests to flourish. Watering every day for a short period doesn’t allow water to penetrate deeply into plants’ root zone. Instead, it promotes stress and poor root development.

Michael Boggs, co-owner of highly rated Ronco Irrigation in Great Falls, Va., says everyone should know how to operate the basic functions of their system. “It’s important to know how to adjust the settings in order to change the amount of water or the time of day it runs,” he says. “Also, know where the system’s water shut-off valve is in case an irrigation pipe or head gets broken.”

About the author: Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She’s passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.

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