Smart Irrigation: These Three Tips Save Water And Money
By Warren Tenney
Every year in June and July your city experiences its highest demand for water. So it makes sense that July is Smart Irrigation Month, a time set aside to remind people about efficient landscape watering. As much as 70 percent of a Valley household's water can be used outdoors. This time of year nighttime lows can stay above 90 degrees for days at a stretch and persistent drought has made our arid state drier than usual. People, particularly those new to desert living, want to help their lawns, trees, shrubs and vines survive the heat, so they turn up the water. Many don’t understand that overwatering is unnecessary, can harm their plants, drive up their water bills and waste a precious resource. Homeowners can limit water use and keep their plants and trees healthy by learning these three lessons during Smart Irrigation Month.
1. Learn to match your landscape to your environment. A drought-tolerant landscape can thrive with half the amount of water as lawns. Planting native and drought-tolerant trees is a far more sustainable way to help mitigate the heat island in a desert. Trees also clean carbon from the air, save energy by shading windows and roofs and add value to your property. The AMWUA plant pages can help you select trees that are “pool-friendly” with less litter or ones that offer large canopies. AMWUA’s plant pages also help you find the color and size of drought tolerant cactus, shrubs, succulents and groundcover to create a colorful, drought tolerant yard. Then find tips on how to design a professional looking landscape. If you decide to leave a small amount of grass as part of your landscape, the most efficient sprinkler nozzles are “stream rotor nozzles” that use multiple fingers of water. The sprinklers cover more evenly and their reach is flexible.
2. Learn when and how much to water. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is watering a little, multiple time throughout summer days. That water evaporates before it makes it to the roots of the trees and plants. Drought resistant plants need less frequent and deep watering – preferably after sunset. Desert soil is built to hold water in deep reservoirs for trees and plants. A simple rule is to water trees to a depth of three feet, shrubs to a depth of 2 feet, smaller plants and vines to 1 foot and grass to ½ foot. You can measure with something as simple as a dowel rod pushed into the soil until it meets resistance. Understanding when to deep water is simple. Sign up for AMWUA’s free WHENTOWATER text alerts. Text WHENTOWATER to 33222 and on the first day of each month you will receive a link to a handy, simple-to-read watering chart for everything in your yard from trees to annuals. Below the chart is a link to Water – Use It Wisely’s Watering by the Numbers, an interactive webpage for more detailed watering instructions.
3. Learn to program your irrigation controller. There is no sense in learning about efficient irrigation if you don’t know how to quickly and easily reprogram your control box to match changes in weather. Desert irrigation experts say that watering times should change at least four times a year to keep plants and trees healthy. Every manufacturer offers a simple, step-by-step video guide to setting your control box. If you don’t set your control box, make sure your landscaper knows that saving water is important to you and sets your watering schedule for healthy trees and plants and efficient use of water.
Smart Irrigation Month also means the start of monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert. The cloudy days make it easier to run your irrigation system and walk your landscape to make sure your irrigation system isn’t leaking. Drip irrigation emitters can fall off and the sun or a gardening tool can split a tube. Look for water pooling around your sprinklers indicating a leak in the line or the sprinkler head. AMWUA’s Smart Home Water Guide can help you find and fix outdoor leaks. Oh, and don’t forget to turn off your irrigation system after a monsoon storm. It saves you money and it saves drinking water for drinking.
For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.