By Lynette Von Minden
Healthy landscapes and gardens offer so much more than simple aesthetic beauty. They provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, control erosion, reduce noise pollution, lower energy bills and increase property values. However, with California’s drought continuing to make national headlines, people everywhere are wondering how to keep those same landscapes and gardens healthy with less water. Unfortunately, that heightened awareness may be the only positive aspect of an otherwise dire situation. Still, according to Alex Nathanson, corporate marketing brand manager for Rain Bird Corporation, realizing that you need to be a better water manager and knowing how to make that happen are two very different things.
“California’s unprecedented water crisis and water-use mandates have had many of the state’s residents wondering if they need to simply stop watering their landscapes altogether,” said Nathanson. “While the mandates are certainly necessary, you don’t have to let your landscape turn brown and die. You can still have a lawn or garden while significantly reducing your outdoor water use. It comes down to integrating efficient irrigation technology and understanding how to use it wisely. That’s true not just for Californians, but for anyone who wants to become a better water manager.”
Not just California’s problem
While the Association of Californian Water Agencies (ACWA) estimates that California residents tend to overwater their outdoor plants and lawns by as much as 60 percent, others throughout the country are also wasting untold amounts of water. According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, residential outdoor water use across the United States accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water each day, primarily for landscape irrigation. In fact, the average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than most American homes use for showering and washing clothes combined.
How are Americans using so much water outdoors? In some situations, outdated or damaged irrigation system components are to blame. Or, an irrigation system may be in good condition, but improper scheduling leads to the application of too much water too often. Regardless, the results are the same — wasted water, high water bills, soggy soil, excess runoff and unhealthy landscapes.
“Irrigation technology has made tremendous strides over the past decade,” said Nathanson. “Manufacturers now offer many irrigation solutions designed to use less water, including those that take advantage of recycled water. But, if you’re not using your irrigation system as efficiently as possible, you’re still wasting water. We have to do more to teach consumers worldwide about responsible water use and help irrigation professionals learn how to design, install and operate more water-efficient systems.”
25 Ways to Save
When California’s situation reached crisis levels earlier this year, Rain Bird knew it needed to step up and find a way to help. The result is an educational program offering water management tips and advice that Californians and others can rely upon to improve irrigation system efficiency and reduce outdoor water consumption. Introduced in May 2015, and expanded during Smart Irrigation Month to include professional resources, Rain Bird’s 25 Ways to Save program draws upon the company’s 80 years of experience in the irrigation industry.
“Regardless of whether you have the money to upgrade your irrigation system right now, you can still use water more efficiently,” Nathanson added. “There are many simple things that people can do immediately, such as checking their system for leaks, or adjusting their watering schedules. We wanted to create an educational resource that anyone could use, and we feel that we’ve achieved that.”
25 Ways offers practical, effective tips and advice drawn from the company’s 80-plus years of experience in the irrigation industry. Available at 25ways.rainbird.com, these resources can be used anywhere and by anyone who wants to improve their watering efficiency. Visitors to the 25 Ways site can choose to explore water-saving ideas in four distinct categories: residential, commercial, golf course and agriculture.
“Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility,” said Nathanson. “Irrigation contractors can have a tremendous impact on water conservation by installing more efficient systems and teaching their clients how to use them correctly. Golf course superintendents and sports turf managers can review their irrigation systems, make necessary updates and improve their watering schedules. Farmers can implement efficient drip irrigation for their crops. By working together, we can really make a difference.”
Water management tips from 25 Ways
The following is a sample of water management tips from Rain Bird’s 25 Ways site that contractors can use to help their residential and commercial customers save water. The full list of water-saving tips for residential, commercial, golf and agricultural sites is available at http://25ways.rainbird.com.
Water in the morning. Water between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when the sun is low, winds are calm and temperatures are cool. Midday watering tends to be less efficient because of water loss due to evaporation and windy conditions. Watering in the evening isn’t a good idea either because leaves can remain wet overnight — an open invitation for fungus to grow.
Review your water bill. Always look at your water bills. If you have a spike, you may have a leak. Leaky sprinkler systems waste millions of gallons each year. The EPA estimates that a leak about the thickness of a dime can cause water waste of 6,300 gallons per month.
Eliminate wind drift. Even small amounts of wind can cause water to drift. Avoid midday watering, when winds are the highest. Pressure-regulating sprinklers and nozzles with thick streams can also help reduce wind drift.
Break up your watering times into shorter segments. The greatest water waste comes from applying too much water at one time, since much of it runs off and is never absorbed. Instead of watering for one long continuous session, use your controller to split your watering time into shorter periods and take 15-minute breaks in between each session. This will let the water soak in and minimize runoff.
Water only when your plants demand it. Overwatering is bad for your landscape’s health and can lead to fungus and disease. The best way to tell if your yard needs water is also the easiest; just take a walk and look around. If your plant leaves are beginning to curl and your footprints are staying longer than usual, it’s time to water.
Eliminate misting. Pressure regulation in your sprinklers is just like installing a low-flow shower head. It delivers the right amount of water to get the job done without any waste. In fact, rotors and sprays with PRS pressure regulating technology can save up to one gallon per minute per rotor or spray.
Prevent puddles. Water can puddle or pool around sprinklers installed at the bottom of slopes or hills, causing soggy areas, which can kill landscape or encourage fungus to grow. Use sprinklers with pre-installed check valves (SAM) to prevent drainage issues.
Separate zones by plant types. Different plants need different amounts of water. Divide your yard into separate zones so groundcover, shrubs and trees can be watered separately and less frequently.
Consider tapping into alternative water sources. Consult your local water provider to see if recycled water is available for use in your area. And, when you make the switch, make sure you are using products designed to stand up to the harsh chemicals found in recycled water.
Lynette Von Minden is senior public relations counsel at Swanson Russell, Lincoln, Neb.
Article provided by Rain Bird Corporation.