Water conservation for landscapes does not have to be complicated. The majority of irrigation systems I evaluate have lots of room for improvement. Often the first enhancements can be made, with minor costs. As a result, the return on the investment is 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 shooting 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. An irrigation auditor accomplishes this 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.