July is Smart Irrigation month, and we should all take a close look at how we can more efficiently water our landscaped areas. It is said that in Arizona, 70% of household water goes to water landscapes. In this video, I share five easy ways you can reduce your water use, helping improve water efficiency in your landscape.
1. Cap unused emitters
One two-gallon drip emitter could waste hundreds of gallons per year if it is not watering a targeted plant. Using goof plugs to cap the ¼” spaghetti line is a cheap and easy way to reduce water wastage in your drip irrigation system. Capping 5 two-gallon emitters in your landscape could save you about 2000 gallons per year! Also, look for opportunities to cap or reduce nozzle size (for example from a 2gph to a 1gph drip nozzles) to some drought tolerant plants, which could also help reduce water usage in your landscape.
2. Make sprinkler head adjustments regularly
Adjust sprinkler nozzles regularly to ensure they are spraying only the targeted areas: your turfgrass. If the head is unable to adjust to the angles, ask your landscaper or irrigation supplier for a specialized nozzle which might work better for those tricky corners, narrow strips or curved areas. Some manufacturer’s nozzles have special tools making these adjustments easy. Also, measure the distance between heads and check to make sure you aren’t overspraying turfgrass areas. While some nozzles have adjustable throw distances, some are fixed. Make sure you achieve head-to-head coverage with minimal overspray. To remind yourself to adjust your nozzles, plan to make necessary adjustments each week after mowing.
3. Swap out spray heads for high efficiency nozzles
Typically, these high efficiency (HE) nozzles have larger water droplets, reducing water loss due to misting or atomization. They also have lower precipitation rates, or deliver water at a much slower rate than traditional spray nozzles. Make sure to review the manufacturer’s chart to determine how much water your nozzles put out to determine ideal runtimes. A few options include Hunter Industry’s MP Rotator, Rain Bird’s HE-Van or Rotary nozzle, or Toro’s Precision Spray nozzles all which can greatly increase the amount of water which reaches the turfgrass. These nozzles can also be an excellent choice for sloped areas since the slower application of water reduces runoff which is common on grade changes.
4. Upgrade to a smart controller
Smart controllers use data from local weather stations to determine how much water should be applied to your landscape, thus, taking the guesswork out of calculating runtimes. It is very important to set up the parameters in the smart controller correctly or it won’t water your plants efficiently. You must know your plants’ water demands, depth of roots, microclimate and soil texture as well as your system’s precipitation rate in order for the controller to calculate proper watering intervals and runtimes. I’ve always said that smart controllers are only as smart as the person setting them up. It can be very frustrating to invest in this modern technology only to have it not work right since the installer wasn’t familiar with the plants, microclimate, soil or basic hydraulics.
Installing a flow monitor or sensor is also another great tool to add to your smart controller. This device tracks water moving through your pipes and will send you warnings if water exceeds the calibrated volume. If you travel or are rarely home when your irrigation is running, this can help identify leaks that go unseen, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water. I highly recommend for a trained license contractor install the flow sensor.
5. Frequent controller scheduling adjustments
If you are not ready to drive into the smart controller scene just yet, you still have an opportunity to save water by using your traditional irrigation controller. Making frequent or monthly scheduling adjustments based on weather changes could help ensure you are watering to your plants’ needs. As a very general rule, I recommend making schedule adjustments anytime weekly average temperatures increase or decrease by 10 degrees. I try not to adjust runtimes too much during the year (to help encourage deep root systems) but generally only adjust intervals, or the frequency of the irrigation cycles. For example, for high water using citrus trees on one of my properties, I may water 4-hour cycles for most of the year, but will water every 4-5 days in the June, but only every 14-21 days in January.
All properties are different, and so it is difficult to determine the ideal runtimes and intervals without inspecting the site and plant conditions as you do when setting up a smart controller. I help both homeowners and commercial properties establish irrigation schedules for traditional and smart controllers. Please contact me if you would like to schedule an appointment to program your controller for maximum water efficiency in your landscape. As desert dwellers, we should pay attention to the amount of water we use in order to preserve this precious resource so that future generations may also be able to live and grow plants in this hot, arid climate.