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Six Steps To Save 85% Of Your Landscape Water


If we told you that you could save as much as 85% of your landscape irrigation water you’d probably call us crazy. And so be it, because we are claiming it is possible and here is how:

Consistent investments over a number of years can be an effective strategy to accumulate wealth. Even small additions to your water savings add up to huge savings over time.

We call it the six degrees of compound savings, and it is magical just like compound interest.

1) The first degree of savings - A Smart Controller.

A traditional irrigation controller runs a fixed schedule despite the difference in weather day-to-day. You must set that fixed schedule to accommodate the hotter days of the season, so there is no escaping it that on the cooler days it is applying more water than necessary. Adjusting to the daily weather is simply smart, hence the name "smart controller." How much you can save with this step depends on the season and your local weather variability, but it typically is about 25%.

2) The second degree of savings - Weather Adjustments.

Some weather adjusting controllers adjust a schedule that is manually entered. In other words, it properly adjusts the schedule based on the weather, but there is no saying that the original schedule it is adjusting actually is the right one. So starting with a scientifically determined schedule based on the plant type, soil type, sprinkler type, shade percentage, and if the plant is newly planted or well established can often save you as much as the actual weather variability. The second degree of saving is typically about 25% as well.

3) The third degree of savings - Predictive Analytics.

Predictive analytics are only found in the smartest controller. Consider it a smart controller with a Ph.D. if you will. Here we apply predictive analytics to add forecast weather to the mix. We go from reactive adjustments—responding to today’s weather—to pro-active adjustments where we incorporate tomorrow's weather into today’s schedule. With predictive analytics, we reduce watering today if rain is on the way tomorrow, as well as save your turf by watering extra today if tomorrow is going to be extremely hot. The Ph.D. part of this proprietary technology is that over time it learns the difference between what is predicted and what actually happens, so it gets better than even the forecast itself. The third degree of saving also depends on the season and your local weather variability, but this advanced algorithm typically accounts for an additional 10% in water savings.

So now you have the most advanced smart controller at work and a likely 60% water reduction. What else can you do? Quite a bit more, actually.

4) The fourth degree of savings - How You Apply Water.

This savings doesn’t come from your controller, it comes from how efficiently you apply water. Plants need water where their roots are, not anywhere else.  Pop up sprinklers apply water at approximately a 50% efficiency rate. This means half the water you paid for is wasted. 

You’ll know from a site report what improvements you can make where. The water saving here can be dramatic. As in 15-60% dramatic, depending on the kind of sprinkler you are replacing. But let's stay conservative here and say you’ll likely gain 15% with this fourth degree of savings.

5) The fifth degree of savings - The Plants You Select.

Plants are the reason for needing irrigation, to begin with. No, we’re not saying you should take out your plants to reduce your water use to zero. It's just that some plants like to sip water while others slurp it up. So using native and drought-tolerant plants in your landscape can make a big difference on your water needs. And when you get the sippers, don’t mix them with the slurpers in the same zone. Otherwise, that zone’s schedule will still need to run as long as the slurpers need it. A sippers’ landscape can save a lot of water but it takes a considerable investment and effort to switch. For those reasons, it is often only partially implemented and as a result, we typically see an additional 10% for this fifth degree of savings.

There you have it. 85% water reduction in five degrees. Three of which are achieved by simply choosing the right smart controller, the fourth by choosing drip irrigation and the fifth by selecting the right plants.

6) But wait, we said there are six degrees - Maintenance.

The sixth and final degree of savings is one that normally erodes over time, taking out the savings you gain with the previous steps. This is the savings gained from a properly maintained irrigation system. A sprinkler head that points at the street rather than the lawn won’t keep that lawn healthy, no matter how much water it sprays. A broken drip line becomes a fountain rather than a drip and can wash away all your savings. Even worse, repeated water run-off on hardscapes (sidewalks, pathways, driveways, parking lots, etc.) can erode those too. This can lead to you not only losing the investment you made in your landscape, but also incurring additional repairs for your hardscape—a cost not even considered in relation to landscaping. The sixth degree is your savings savior, and with annual site visits, you’ll know what corrections are needed to keep your landscape and savings in the green.

As the price of water continues to increase the money you save increases by the amount of water cost. Waiting to make changes only costs you more. Not everyone is in a position to save this much water on their landscape, but the number of people who can is staggering. The future is now for water savings. 

 

 

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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.

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