Water

Conservation

Strategies

Smart Irrigation Systems

Sprinkler System Zoning

Irrigation Using Reclaimed Water

Drip Irrigation

Temporary Irrigation

Contouring Land

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IRRIGATION

Did you know that 1/3 to 1/2 of your water usage goes toward landscape maintenance? In most cases, you can implement certain irrigation strategies to improve watering efficiency and significantly reduce this degree of water usage. Some are quick, inexpensive, and simple to install, such as smart devices (e.g., soil moisture sensors, weather/climate sensors, and timers) and rain collection barrels. Smart devices can monitor moisture levels in the soil and adjust irrigation schedules to avoid over-watering. They can also monitor precipitation levels to interrupt watering during rainy periods. Rain collection barrels save water from rainy periods for later use. Another water collection system is the greywater system, which collects water from hand sinks, showers, and the washing machine. Water from both rain collection barrels and greywater systems can be delivered by gravity-fed hoses or pumped

through pipes.

Some irrigation systems deliver water more efficiently than others. Traditional broadcast sprinkler systems frequently lose water through wind, evaporation, or delivering water to hard surfaces like sidewalks and driveways. Drip irrigation systems deliver small, steady amounts of water over time to very precise locations. They allow water to better infiltrate soil, which leads to better root growth, healthier plants, and water conservation. Soaker hoses are another good option. These can be laid out on the surface or buried beneath the soil.

You can reduce and, hopefully, minimize water consumption by auditing the efficiency of your existing irrigation systems and making the appropriate changes. Of course, there are also several landscaping changes that can be made to help conserve or use less water. Some irrigation designs integrate contouring, infiltration basins, turf minimization, or permeable landscape features. One landscaping feature, which is becoming more popular though it actually dates back several centuries, is the green or vegetated roof, where vegetation is planted either in soil beds on the roof or in specially designed trays.

Smart

Irrigation,

Systems

What is it?

Outdoor watering accounts for approximately ½ of the public water we consume. Many landscapes are overwatered due to irrigation systems with timers operating on rigid schedules, whether watering is needed or not. By contrast, an eco-friendly sprinkler or drip irrigation system only waters vegetation when necessary due to soil and weather conditions.

EPA WaterSense-labeled controllers can turn an ordinary irrigation system into a smart one. The sensors use landscape and local weather conditions to set irrigation schedules appropriate for watering zones. They monitor soil and/or weather conditions, and then allow or interrupt programmed irrigation cycles. Based on satellite updates they receive on climate conditions, the timers can automatically change the watering schedule.

Less sophisticated or standard models require manual reprogramming.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Conserves water resources because irrigation system turns water on and off based on soil moisture and/or climate conditions

Promotes healthy vegetation by reducing overwatering, contributing to reduced greenhouse gases

Encourages deep tree and plant root growth

Pros:

Reduces use of pubic water for irrigation, lowering water bills

Vegetation is watered as needed and remains healthy from season to season, reducing plant loss

Simplifies watering schedule

Cons:

If not set properly, controllers will continue to allow overwatering

Increases one-time out-of-pocket expenses for irrigation system accessories

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Must learn how to program or set the controller or sensors based on local conditions

Maintenance:

Irrigation systems with a timer or controller need to be correctly programmed for watering events, taking into consideration the zones and seasons. The schedule will need periodic adjusting, based on current climate conditions. How often timers or controllers need adjusting will depend on the level of unit sophistication. Like any equipment, irrigation system controllers, sensors. and timers require periodical inspection to ensure proper functioning. In areas where irrigation is not necessary because plants are highly drought-tolerant, hand- watering might be the most practical option to avoid wasting water.

Timeline:

Controllers, sensors, and timers can normally be retrofitted or added to the existing irrigation system in 1 day.

Steps:

Cost Estimator:

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Many homeowners choose to have a landscaping or irrigation system professional install and program controllers. However, you can easily install simple sensors and timers by yourself.

1.Identify the type of soil to be watered and the typical climate based on official weather records.

2.Install the controllers, sensors, or timers.

3.Review landscaping, looking for ways to reduce water usage by changing or better managing grass, plants, and trees.

4.Determine the least amount of water needed by zone to encourage deep root growth.

5.Determine irrigation schedule, i.e. when watering will occur and how much water will be applied each time.

6.Program the controller or install sensors and timers.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Planting native vegetation reduces watering requirements.

✓✓Divide yard into irrigation zones that can be watered separately and program or set controllers or sensors as appropriate.

✓✓Water during the coolest hours of the day, while the sun is low.

✓✓Watering in increments rather than all at once will help avoid wasting water due to runoff.

Controllers, sensors, and timers are inexpensive and can be purchased for under $150. A state-of-the-art WaterSense sensor can be purchased for less than $225.

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Sprinkler

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System -

 

Zoning

 

What is it?

 

When you “zone” a sprinkler or irrigation system, you break landscaping into areas based on the type of vegetation and their water requirements. For example, a shady flower bed needs less watering than a sunny yard, or trees need less watering than shrubs.

Most lawns have multiple zones, and the sprinkler system is designed so that there are groups of sprinkler heads. Each group operates independently off a different valve. The system is programmed to meet the particular water requirements of each separate zone, with some operating more frequently or for longer periods of time than others.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Conserves water resources

Reduces energy usage because sprinkler system does not come on as frequently

Reduces chances of over-irrigation and leaching nutrients from soil

Pros:

Lowers water bills

Delivers water more efficiently based on plant needs

Lowers energy bills due to less use of sprinkler system pumps

Promotes healthier vegetation

Cons:

With raised sprinkler heads, wind can evaporate or spread water unevenly

Wets the leaves of plants, which can increase plant susceptibility to disease and mold

Local water restrictions may limit use of system at times due to drought conditions

Maintenance:

Maintaining a sprinkler system requires routine inspections for broken sprinkler heads, lines, or puddling water, which generally indicates a broken component or over-watering. Also, the watering schedule should be adjusted for each zone by season. Less watering is usually needed in the winter months, and the sprinkler system should be winterized in cold climates.

Timeline:

Installation of a zoned sprinkler system is the most time- consuming portion of the process. Once installed, routine maintenance requires no more than a couple of hours a month to inspect each sprinkler head and/or adjust seasonal watering schedules.

Steps:

Generally, zoning a sprinkler system includes the following major steps. However, this is only a summary. Most homeowners have professionals install their sprinkler systems, though it can be a DIY project. It’s your responsibility to landscape an environmentally friendly yard to take full advantage of sprinkler system zoning, e.g. by planting native plants, reducing turf, composting, etc.

1.Draw a property plan using a bird’s eye view, identifying structures or other obstacles, trees, ground cover, gardens, flower beds, and grass.

2.Divide the yard into zones based on the type of plant material like turf, shrubs, flower beds, and trees.

3.Establish group control valves for the zones and locate them near the main water connection.

4.Locate largest sprinkler system heads in the largest zones, while avoiding placement that could promote wasted water runoff on pavement or spray that hits buildings.

5.To ensure watering only areas that need watering, take advantage of the many sprinkler head configurations available, i.e. half-circle, quarter-circle, and full circle heads.

6.Locate smaller sprinkler heads in smaller or oddly shaped zones.

7.Adjust the sprinkler gallons-per-minute flow by zone to minimize water usage.

Cost Estimator:

Average cost for installing an underground sprinkler system with raised sprinkler heads is $2,000 - $3,000. Adding zoning to an existing system is possible but will likely require additional expenses like control valves and new water lines.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Separate lawn areas from shrub and ornamental areas for zoning purposes, and then separate ornamental planting areas like flowers from hardier planting areas like shrubs and ground cover, ✓✓Separate sunny and shady zones because shady areas need less watering,

✓✓Use one type of sprinkler head for any given zone (e.g., zone A uses only rotor sprinklers and zone B uses only spray sprinklers).

✓✓Set sprinkler heads so that there are no dead watering spots between sprinkler head coverage areas.

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Irrigation

Using

Reclaimed

Water or

Greywater

What is it?

Collecting rainwater and filtering greywater (used household water) are two eco-friendly ways you can recycle water to irrigate your lawn and plants. Both methods capture water that would otherwise find its way into sewers or stormwater drains..

In the simplest water capture system, roof runoff is collected in rain barrels or cisterns. In another method, runoff from roofs, driveways, and sidewalks is directed into channels planted with native vegetation. Downspouts can also be positioned so that they water plants directly when it rains. However, to prevent erosion, the water must be directed to landscaping features and prepared areas (e.g. landscaping rocks or earthen dammed areas). More sophisticated systems might direct rainwater into large surface or underground holding tanks, from which the water can be pumped into an irrigation system.

Recycled water from bathing and hand or clothes washing is called “greywater.” Greywater systems recycle untreated water from the shower, bathtub, bathroom sinks, and washing machines (no toilet water or kitchen water permitted by law). The average person in the home uses 80-100 gallons of water each day, with 20% from showers and baths and 23% from laundry rooms. Greywater systems normally filter out the solid particles and then store the used house water in a storage tank. From there, the water is fed into an irrigation system.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Slows and reduces stormwater runoff

Reduces soil erosion and pollution of creeks and lakes

Recharges groundwater with infiltrated water

Conserves public, treated water, reducing energy needed at treatment plants

Pros:

Lowers water bills

Rainwater can be stored in ponds, barrels, or tanks, or fed directly to various irrigation systems; thus it’s adaptable to

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different landscapes

The greywater system accesses household water, which accounts for at least half of water used by a family

Household water is available on a constant basis as opposed to rainfall

Provides good quality water for plants

Cons:

Some states or local regulations don’t allow greywater systems and/or collection of rainwater

Once collected, there must be a way to transport water from the storage area to lawns and gardens

Greywater needs filtering to be as safe as possible to humans and the environment

Greywater has plumbing requirements that can be more expensive than reclaimed water systems

Reclaimed water system is not as useful during extreme drought

Maintenance:

There is very little maintenance required for reclaimed water or greywater irrigation systems. Rain barrels should be cleaned periodically to remove sediment and inhibit algae growth. If the greywater system has a filter and pump, these will require routine maintenance to ensure proper operation. Storage tanks, especially aboveground tanks, might need to be drained in the winter months to prevent damage.

Timeline:

A reclaimed water system using rain barrels can be installed in 1 day. It might require adjusting downspouts. A greywater system can be installed by a professional in 3 days.

Steps:

Cost Estimator:

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1.Research local and state laws to ensure compliance.

2.Determine budget and type of irrigation system.

3.If you choose reclaimed water, purchase rain barrels and position them to collect water from downspouts.

4.If you choose a greywater system, you can install only the most low tech version--basically running a washing machine hose into a garbage can—without professional assistance. Since more automated systems require plumbing adjustments, excavation of storage tank area, and installation of the entire system, including the pump, it’s advisable to let a professional do the installation.

5.Connect the greywater system to a drip irrigation system.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Install leaf screens to remove debris from water in the reclaimed water system.

✓✓When possible, use gravity to transport the water, as this will keep energy expenses as low as possible. ✓✓Greywater should not be used on food crops.

A rain barrel can be purchased for $35-$200.There are numerous greywater system configurations ranging from basic unfiltered ones with simple drainage pipes to direct water into above ground storage tanks to sophisticated engineered units with filters and pumps feeding water to underground storage tanks. A greywater system can cost anywhere from $400 to

$5,000. The most inexpensive system includes a mesh filter and a 55 gallon garbage can. A fully automated system includes a filtering system, pumps, and storage tanks.

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Drip

Irrigation

What is it?

Unlike a sprinkler system, drip irrigation doesn’t distribute water away from the emitters. As a result, less water is wasted, and the watering of plants, trees, bushes, and flowers is more efficient.

Drip irrigation delivers water slowly, at low pressure, saturating the root zone. This means less water is lost through evaporation or wind. Moreover, drip irrigation delivers water precisely to the desired areas, whereas sprinkler systems water a much larger, less controlled area. Additionally, you can control water volume by installing a particular number of valves, so that more areas can be covered with less water waste.

There are two primary types of drip irrigation systems: surface and subsurface. Surface drip irrigation uses tubing and water emitters to release a steady, slow amount of water to the soil above root systems. Subsurface drip irrigation systems are installed under lawns or planting beds that are not disturbed from year to year. You can install either type yourself with the assistance of online or hardware store resources.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Conserves water

Promotes strong healthy plant roots by delivering water to the correct depth

Discourages leaching of soil nutrients

Pros:

Precision water application

Can be used in any size area and on slopes that cannot effectively be watered by a sprinkler system

Can add low volume spray or porous pipe systems

Reduces plant stress associated with too wet/too dry cycles typical with sprinkler systems

Doesn’t keep leaves wet so less risk of plant disease, mold, or decay

Costs less than underground sprinkler systems

System can be tailored to deliver different rates of water to individual plants

Cons:

May take up to 12 hours to wet root zones of larger trees, bushes, or shrubs

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Unless covered with mulch or hidden around plants, surface drip tubing is visible

System is exposed to the elements

Maintenance:

Filter must be cleaned twice a year. The system should also be flushed twice a year. Drip emitters must be added, deleted, or moved periodically as plants grow or new growth develops, or when landscaping is changed. Soil must be aerated once or twice a year to loosen soil compaction so watering is more effective. Root zones around plants must be checked periodically to ensure the right amount of water is reaching roots.

Timeline:

A surface drip irrigation system can be installed in approximately 24 hours, which includes designing the system, laying hose, and connecting emitters or other accessories.

Steps:

For a surface drip irrigation system:

1.Draw a plan for the drip irrigation system.

2.Determine how much drip tubing and how many emitters are needed, including sprayers for ground cover and foggers for

1. plant containers.

2. Install a vacuum breaker, pressure regulator, filter, and hose

Cost Estimator:

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swivel to the hose bib.

3. Insert cut, unperforated tubing end into filter and run to the

edge of the plant bed.

4. Attach tubing with emitters to the unperforated tubing.

5. Wind the tubing with emitters around the trees, bushes, and

flower beds, using tee connectors for turning corners.

6. Insert ground stakes to hold the tubing in place.

7. Position sprayers in dense vegetation area; add single emitters

for plants off the grid; and install foggers as needed.

Unless you are comfortable using trenching equipment, you

should have a professional landscaper install a subsurface drip

irrigation system.,.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Root zones for flowers, lawns, and vegetables are 6-12 inches deep.

✓✓Root zones for shrubs and groundcover are 1-2 feet deep.

✓✓Root zones for trees are 2-3 feet deep.

✓✓Water deep enough so that water reaches root zone.

✓✓Dig a small hole to the desired watering depth after watering. If the bottom is moist, you know you’ve watered enough.

✓✓Water less frequently when you want to encourage roots to grow deeper,

✓✓Check moisture levels regularly to ensure root zone saturation.

✓✓Saturation below root zones is wasted water. ✓✓Fertilizer dispensers can be added to the drip irrigation system.

A drip irrigation system will cost $40 to $100 per 100 square feet.

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Temporary

Irrigation

What is it?

There are times when additional watering is needed in a particular area, perhaps in addition to or in advance of a permanent irrigation system. For these, or similar situations, a temporary irrigation system fits the bill. A temporary irrigation system can help newly planted trees, bushes, or sod get established. It might be a temporary addition, such as a sprinkler or drip irrigation system connected directly to a water spigot rather than a water supply line. If only a few new trees or small planting areas are involved, a simple soaker hose with a timer, or hand-watering with a hose might suffice. During the first few weeks, while new plant roots are being established, the ground directly over the root ball should be regularly watered. However, once established, the irrigation system needs to be adjusted to accommodate root growth. Fine roots that absorb the water spread beyond the plant base, so the irrigation system might be no longer delivering water to the right location. As root systems develop, the temporary irrigation system coverage area needs to be expanded further from the plant base.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Improves plant survival rage by ensuring healthy root growth

More efficient use of water

Pros:

Ensures new vegetation gets adequate water

Watering is easily adapted to soil conditions

Costs less than installing a fixed irrigation system for new plantings

Simple to maintain precise watering

Reduced water evaporation with soaker hoses

Cons:

Requires small investment in a watering system that will be removed

Might be inconvenient to manage, depending on the type of system installed

Maintenance:

Spread mulch around new plants, trees, and bushes, but leave the base or trunk bare to prevent rot or decay. Mulch will help with water retention in the soil and reduce surface evaporation. The irrigation system should water the plants until soil is moist

at least 6 inches deep. If seeding a new lawn, the temporary irrigation system should water 2-4 times a day for the first 3 weeks so that the seeding bed remains moist. After the first 3 weeks, daily watering might be necessary for the next 4-6 weeks until seeds germinate. After seed germination, the new grass has to be watered at least every other day, but the soil surface can now be allowed to dry out between watering. Once the lawn is firmly established, routine watering can begin.

Timeline:

A temporary irrigation system can be installed in 1 day.

Steps:

1.Plant vegetation and immediately water until water puddles; let water soak in and then water again until soil is moistened.

2.Spread mulch of shredded leaves or bark, peat moss or compost around new plants, leaving the bases bare.

3.Install temporary irrigation system.

4.Water every day the first week because roots are close to the plant base.

5.Beginning the second week, water 2-3 times each week for 4 weeks.

6.After roots are established, temporary irrigation system can be removed and routine watering schedule initiated.

Cost Estimator:

A temporary irrigation system should cost under $50.

Quick Tips:

✓✓Watering is necessary when soil surface below mulch is dry.

✓✓Avoid planting in hot, dry weather as this will stress plants. Additionally, water is more likely to evaporate. ✓✓Just like other plants, drought-tolerant plants require regularly watering until established.

✓✓Plant drought-tolerant, native vegetation, which is hardier, easier to establish, and requires less watering over its lifetime than non-native vegetation.

✓✓Soil and climate have a large impact on watering needs until trees, shrubs, and bushes are well established.

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Contouring

Land

What is it?

Contouring should be part of an overall design and planting process. It’s an excellent way to harvest rainfall and reduce the need for irrigation by minimizing runoff and encouraging water to soak into the ground. To do this, it increases moisture absorption and reduces evaporation. Contours can direct water to desired areas or specific plants. Additionally, contouring decreases soil erosion.

Thecontouringdesigncanincludefeatureslikesloping, channeling, and terracing. Appropriate features depend on the shape and grade of the property. When the slope is less than 5%, groundcover and other vegetation can effectively slow runoff. To achieve better results with greater slope, contours can be supplemented with native vegetation and natural mulch.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities

Reduces public water usage

Slows runoff so fewer chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides and less animal waste reach lakes and streams

Reduces soil erosion<