Save Water by Updating Your Irrigation System

Brett Freeman

Older irrigation systems were designed to mimic Mother Nature, in essence providing rain for your yard on demand. But while rain might be an efficient delivery system on a global scale, the same isn’t necessarily true when it comes to your yard. Upgrading your outdated irrigation system and making a few easy changes can save you hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water a year and still provide your lawn and garden areas all the water they need to thrive.

Switch to Drip

If the trees, bushes, and flowers in your yard are being watered by sprinkler heads, you’re wasting water--a lot of water. Sprinkler heads throw water into the air. Some of it gets to the roots of the plants being watered, but much of it does not. Drip irrigation lines are installed right on top of the roots of your plants, delivering the water exactly where it is needed. Getting rid of the sprinkler heads in these areas and replacing them with drip irrigation lines can cut the amount of water needed to keep your plants healthy in half.

Replace Your Sprinkler Heads

Even if your irrigation system is only ten or twelve years old, you should consider replacing your sprinkler heads. This is partly because the technology has improved, but mainly because sprinkler heads are only designed to last for about eight to ten years. Here’s how to test them: if your sprinkler heads are shooting a stream of water that you can practically limbo under without getting wet, they are shot. Newer irrigation heads do a much better job of creating a uniform spray pattern over your entire lawn. This means that someone lying on the ground three feet from a sprinkler head will get just as wet as someone lying 12 feet away if the system comes on unexpectedly. Newer sprinkler heads are also able to achieve the same coverage while spraying at a lower angle, so that less water is lost to evaporation.

Program Your System Timer Wisely

You can probably save the most water by simply watering your yard intelligently and programming your timer accordingly. Your lawn doesn’t need water every day, and if you don’t really soak it, most of the water will evaporate before it is absorbed anyway. Watering your grass for an hour twice a week will yield better results than 15 minutes every morning and evening, and use 40 percent less water. On the other hand, with drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to your plants’ roots, evaporation isn’t a factor. Program your system to water these zones for 10 to 15 minutes every morning, an hour or so before dawn. You might need to tweak the timing, but always keep the goal of using less water in mind when you do so.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.

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