Water Saving Tips for Irrigated Properties

July 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

Landscape IrrigationWith drought gripping 80% of the United States, the topic of water conservation has garnered significant attention. Water is a critical element to the health of commercial landscapes, with many properties installing irrigation systems to ensure that plants and turf remain healthy throughout the year. The challenge for property owners and managers lies in balancing the need for regular watering with a desire to conserve water (and save money on the cost of watering).

Practice Routine Maintenance

One of the biggest ways to reduce water consumption is to ensure your irrigation system is properly maintained so that it can operate with maximum efficiency. Routine maintenance tasks should include:

  • Repairing broken sprinklers, pipes and fittings;
  • Straightening leaning sprinklers and raising those that are blocked by plants;
  • Scheduling regular system checks throughout the watering season; and
  • Checking the meter for leakages and repairing any problems as soon as possible.

Optimize Irrigation System for Efficiency

Often, one of the easiest ways to conserve water is to ensure that your irrigation system is configured correctly. Some of the factors to consider include:

  • Placement of sprinklers to ensure water is applied evenly to plants;
  • Adjusting sprinkler spray patterns to match planting areas;
  • Using the correct radius sprinkler nozzle for the area being watered; and
  • Standardizing sprinklers and nozzles (because they apply water at different rates, rotor and spray sprinklers should not be used on the same valve).

Use Scheduling Strategies

Watering needs differ throughout commercial properties depending upon the landscape (Is the area hardscaped or planted? Does it include shrubbery or grass? Etc.) and throughout the year depending upon the time of day and weather conditions. A water scheduling system can help to ensure that your system is delivering only the amount of water needed to the areas that need it. Useful scheduling features include:

  • Setting multiple programs that allow you to create separate settings for individual planting areas. For example, this can be used to create customized watering programs for lawns versus shrubs, or to ensure that newly planted areas receive extra water while they become established.
  • Programming multiple starts in order to minimize run-off by watering at a rate that the soil can accept and keeping water at the root one. Typically, this can be accomplished by using three to four shorter run times.
  • Making seasonal changes such as reducing irrigation in the late summer when plants need less water, or scheduling fewer but longer cycles to encourage deep rooting and increase soil moisture.

Install Rain and Moisture Sensors

Why water your commercial property if it is raining or the soil is already saturated? The best way to ensure you are watering only when needed is to install a rain shutoff device and soil moisture sensors.

  • Rain shutoff devices (also called rain sensors) are designed to halt irrigation in response to rainfall. Most rain sensors are adjustable and allow you to specify the amount of rain that must fall before irrigation is stopped. A number of rain shutoff products are available and they are all compatible with almost all sprinkler clocks.
  • Soil moisture sensor systems work with your irrigation system like a thermostat works with your furnace. The thermostat turns on your furnace when the temperature drops below a set temperature and turns it off when the desired temperature has been achieved. Similarly, a soil moisture sensor system measures the level of moisture in the soil and halts irrigation if the soil is wet or permits irrigation if the soil is dry. There are a variety of soil moisture sensor systems on the market at different price levels. A good system should include sensors and a controller that allows you to set the moisture level at which you want to stop and start irrigation.

By following the tips outlined above, you can save water, improve plant health, and lower water costs for your commercial landscape.

{Image credit: Thumbtack.com}