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An Awesome Water Management Guide For Landscapes


Water management can be a confusing, complicated subject many homeowners and landscapers chose to ignore.  This guide will help you with a few basic concepts that can make a significant reduction in water use on your landscape.  It will also make water management less confusing and complicated. Consistently review these four basic steps on your landscape and you will save water, money and have a more beautiful, vibrant landscape.

TURF CONVERSIONS FOR BETTER WATER MANAGEMENT 

I admit it, I love turf, especially in areas where turf is essential.  A few examples of essential areas include sports fields, common areas of homeowners associations where neighbors enjoy outdoor spaces for getting together and in resort properties where guests want to enjoy the outdoors for weddings and other outdoor events.  I also have to admit I don't love turf in non-essential areas.  The most common non-essential area for turf all of us are familiar with is the parking lot island planted with turf. Often in this situation the turf grows above the curb and is watered with spray heads and during watering a considerable amount of water ends up on the asphalt due to overspray and runoff.

This is a waste of water and contributes to having to reseal parking lots more often than normal. The parking lot strips with turf are also expensive to maintain, they waste labor and water and that’s why they are called stupid strips. (Don't forget to tweet your #stupidstrip pictures)  It is easy to recognize  similar areas on properties where turf just doesn’t work.

Turf planted next to any hardscape is an opportunity to save water. Often turf is planted in front or back yards as rectangles bordered by concrete sidewalks or buildings.  Adding a rounded border to these areas by replacing turf with some drought tolerant plants reduces water use and eliminates runoff.  This improves water management and can improve aesthetics too.

Today many people suggest removing lawns completely.  Is such extreme action needed? Many water agencies implementing water budgets allow for turf.  The EPAs water budget tool allows for turf as well.  The ever more popular call to remove all turf is such an extreme view it can turn people away from water conservation.  Below are some questions to ask concerning the use of turf, the answers will guide you to the proper improvements to make:

  1. Are there non-functional areas of turf that can be removed? 
  2. Is subsurface or micro irrigation a possible alternative to spray heads and eliminate the need to remove turf?  Will slopes with turf benefit from a smart controller or multiple start times on a conventional controller? 
  3. Would installing drip irrigation on slopes eliminate runoff?
  4. Turf removal may be needed, but it is also important to consider additional irrigation options that may correct the problem.


SHRUB AND ANNUAL BEDS

During the construction boom of the late 80s and 90s there were millions of spray heads installed in shrub and annual beds.  Since then, technology and the price of water helped show spray heads are not an efficient way to water our landscapes.  Too much water evaporates or is carried away by wind.  

The spray heads often come out of alignment and spray sidewalks, driveways, and the street. They also apply lots of water in a short period of time which can run off.I recommend you check for the following items in your shrub and annual beds:

  1. Are there spray heads that can convert to drip irrigation?
  2. Have any shrubs grown so large they are blocking spray heads and making it tough to water efficiently?
  3. Can you replace any high water use plants with more drought tolerant plants?

EFFICIENT AND UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION

Irrigation systems are designed to be efficient and distribute water uniformly across the landscape.  Installation should be completed per the design and then maintained properly so the integrity of the system remains strong. 

Design, installation and maintenance contribute to maintaining a healthy landscape while maximizing water savings.  Regular checks of the following will be a factor for a more efficient and uniform system:

  1. Do any nozzles need to be replaced?
  2. Can any spray heads be changed to high efficiency nozzles?
  3. Are there any sprays and rotors on the same zone?
  4. Is there too much pressure causing misting and wasting water?
  5. Are there any heads sitting too low or tilted that need adjustment? 

CONTROLLERS AND PROGRAMMING

Installing smart controllers or accurately programming traditional controllers is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to save water.  Even traditional controllers have a wide variety of features and watering options for saving water and need to be programmed so the water saving features are utilized and water savings is maximized. 

Below is a basic checklist for controllers: 

  1. Are rain sensors attached to all controllers to automatically turn the irrigation off when it rains?
  2. Make regular adjustments to a traditional controller based on ET.
  3. Program multiple start times to reduce runoff.
  4. Can the traditional controller be converted to a smart controller?

Remember this guide is just a start.  If you are not implementing some type of guide today using this one may significantly reduce your water use.  As water becomes more scarce and more expensive, tools like this can help us better manage this precious resource.  If you like this post please consider subscribing to the blog or follow me on twitter at @H2oTrends.

Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.

Comments

Frances commented on 25-Mar-2016 10:22 AM 
This is a beautiful blog, with lovely images and lots of precise and helpful information. It is freshly crafted and shows great awareness of and enthusiasm about the topics.
Richard Restuccia commented on 25-Mar-2016 10:22 AM 
Thank you for your nice comments. We want to do what is best for water conservation. Please keep reading and making comments. We appreciate it.
Lori Palmquist commented on 25-Mar-2016 10:22 AM 
Great article, Richard. Keep up the good work.
selah commented on 25-Mar-2016 10:22 AM 
Very helpful information I need for my new lawn. Thanks

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