Whether you were brought up in an arid or water-rich area, being a good steward of our natural resources is just plain good sense. After all, wasting water is not only irresponsible, it costs money.
Did you know that the average household in our area uses three times as much water in the summer as the winter largely because of outdoor irrigation?
When was the last time you checked your irrigation system’s operation or that of your business? With water rates on the rise, frequent monitoring is certainly worth the time and effort. Here are some simple things to take into account to ensure proper operation and to potentially save hundreds of gallons per month:
■ Check your sprinkler heads. Are they broken, clogged, plugged or overgrown with vegetation? Are there objects interfering with proper application? Make sure the spray heads turn properly.
■ Check for uniform water distribution. After a cycle, walk the property to determine if water is applied evenly. Look for excessively wet or dry spots. Place straight-sided containers (such as tuna fish cans) around the yard during irrigation and measure water depth so that you know how long it takes to apply one-quarter to one-half inch of water. Place containers on persistent dry spots to determine if poor sprinkler coverage is the problem. Avoid watering if the soil still is wet.
■ Leak detection and repair. Check for obvious leaks and take immediate action to fix them. Leaks can waste many gallons of water throughout time. Review your water bill and compare it to similar months. If you notice an anomaly, it may be due to a leak.
■ Check for proper water infiltration. You may be overwatering, which is wasteful, costly and not healthy for plants. Most of our soils have a lot of clay and need slow water delivery for proper infiltration (a maximum of one-half inch per hour). Select rotary nozzles that use stream spray with multi-trajectory, slow delivery.
■ Does your system have optimum pressure (psi)? Too much pressure causes misting/atomizing; too little causes dribbling.
■ Is your controller set for proper application rates? Proper adjustment of timers saves water and results in healthier turf and plants. A rule of thumb for our area for bluegrass turf is to water once in the morning (before 9 a.m.) and once in the evening (after 7 p.m.) every third day for a total of 1 to 1 1/2 inches per week. New technology has made smart controllers and ET-based controllers great options. It might be time to consider installing one of these. Also, wireless rain sensors that shut off the system when it is raining are a good investment.
■ Are you watering the driveway, sidewalk or other hard surfaces? Minimize overspray, erosion or hardscape issues by adjusting spray heads or retrofitting your system with high-efficiency variable arc spray nozzles. These have adjustable settings from 0 to 360 degrees to keep the water where you want it to go and are relatively inexpensive.
If any of these tasks seem daunting, there are a number of very qualified local professional irrigators as well as local suppliers who carry the items mentioned. Rebates are being offered by the water districts in Steamboat Springs to help with costs of improving irrigation efficiency. Visit www.mwwater.com for information.
Lyn Halliday is an environmental scientist and owner of Environmental Solutions Unltd. She consults locally on environmental issues and was instrumental in the development of the Steamboat Springs Water Conservation Plan. She also founded the Sustainable Business Program in 2006 and works with local businesses to reduce their environmental footprint, including water consumption reduction.