July is Smart Irrigation Month, but at Ewing we think every month should celebrate smart irrigation. That's because about half of the water applied to the average landscape today is wasted due to inefficient irrigation methods. But smart irrigation products and practices are changing that statistic and helping people use water more efficiently than ever.
Here are a few ways you can use smart irrigation products and practices to save water in any landscape.
1. Install a Wi-Fi smart controller
Wi-Fi smart controllers are so smart they can help save the average home 7,600 gallons of water annually!
Today’s smart controllers allow contractors and homeowners to see and adjust their irrigation schedules right from their mobile phones, but that isn’t what makes them smart. They’re “smart” because they use real-time weather data to adjust the watering schedule as needed to make sure the right amount of water is being applied. Without a smart controller, irrigation scheduling is often a guessing game that can result in overwatering.
2. Use water-efficient nozzles
Water-efficient sprinkler nozzles differ from traditional sprays in two key ways. First they apply water more evenly across the area water is being applied. Second, they apply water more slowly, in larger droplets, so that it can soak in with less runoff.
Multi-stream multi-trajectory nozzles, like MP Rotators and R-VANs, and high-efficiency spray nozzles, can reduce water use by up to 35 percent over traditional spray nozzles.
3. Convert a spray zone to drip
Because drip irrigation gets applied more effectively to plants roots, it can be up to 45 percent more water-efficient than sprinklers.
If you have shrubs, groundcover or flower beds being watered by sprinklers, or if you’re replacing areas of turf with native or low-water use plants, make sure to get a Retro Drip Adapter. This device can convert a spray zone into a drip zone, easily and quickly.
4. Enhance the soil
Even with the smartest irrigation, plants will suffer in poor soils. Soil enhancers can help you create the right soil conditions to grow deep and healthy root system, for more hardy and drought resistant plants.
Holganix products, Mirimichi Green CarbonizPN and AquaSmart PRO are a few additives that help soil retain more moisture and improve root growth. A soil test or someone at your local Ewing can help identify the best product for your soil type.
5. Add a flow sensor
Flow sensors are brilliant little devices that are becoming more common and affordable for residential systems.
A flow sensor senses water flowing through your system, of course, but they can also work with smart controllers to alert you to broken pipes, leaks or other issues that can damage your landscape and waste water.
6. Activate the rain, freeze and wind shut off
Making sure your irrigation systems shut off in rainy, freezing or windy conditions is easy to do with a Wi-Fi smart controller. Just find the rain/freeze/wind shut-off option and make sure its switched on and ready to prevent the system from running if conditions aren’t ideal, or if a recent rain has already satisfied the landscapes water requirements.
If the irrigation controller doesn’t have this option, you may be able to add a rain/freeze sensor to accomplish the same task. Check with the controller manufacture for options.
7. Cycle and soak
When you have hard ground, the water that gets applied from sprinklers often can’t soak into the soil quickly. Then water will run off onto the adjacent driveway, sidewalk or road. If you notice this issue, be sure to use the “cycle and soak” option on your controller.
Cycle and soak means watering each zone in multiple cycles. This means a zone will be watered for a few minutes then will pause to allow water to soak into the ground before more water is applied. You can test to see how long each cycle and soak should be by closely monitoring each zone for runoff.
8. Check for leaks, overspray and pressure problems
On any irrigation system, parts can break, sprinklers get out of alignment and water pressure can become too high or too low, which leads to wasted water. Regular maintenance checks can help solve many of these issues before they cause any major water loss, so be sure to schedule those checks or an irrigation audit.
Bonus tip: Got high pressure? Install pressure regulating spray bodies on systems with high pressure to reduce water use by up to 25 percent.
9. Use check valves
In sloped landscapes, low head drainage can waste water and other problems. Low head drainage occurs when the zone is shut off the remaining water in the pipe drains out through the lowest spray heads or emitters, soaking that spot. The resulting air pocket inside the system can cause sputtering the next time the system turns on, putting excessive stress on the system.
Luckily there are sprinklers and dripline with built-in check valves that prevent low head drainage. Look for check valves, aka CV options, to use in low spots.
10. Water early
The best time to water most lawns is probably between 4-10 a.m. when temperatures are cool. Then the water applied can fully soak into the soil before the heat of the day starts to evaporate it.
Experiencing a heat wave? In extreme heat it may be helpful to give the turf an afternoon spritzing by running your sprinklers for 5 to 10 minutes to help cool the turf and reduce heat stress.
11. Make sure you’ve got swing risers
Swing risers provide a flexible connection from sprinkler heads to your pipe that can protect heads or pipes from breaking when they are accidentally stepped on or run over. This prevents major leaks that can flood the landscape, and that’s just plain smart!
Many of these ideas can be accomplished in just a few minutes or hours, inexpensively, and can result in significant water savings for almost any client. All across the country, landscape companies and contractors that promote and specialize in smart irrigation practices are saving water and growing their business.