By Will Johnson. (First published in Let’s Talk Plants! August 2008, No. 167.)
Studies demonstrate just how much water different types of plants require. “Smart Irrigation” means matching the water you provide through irrigation with that plant’s optimal water requirements. If most homeowners actually DID that, it’s estimated we could save up to half the water we now use.
Many new, exciting technologies help us use our precious water more efficiently, and better yet, make it easy to be green (water-wise). Some are low-tech, like changing or adjusting a sprinkler nozzle. Others, like some of the newest weather-based irrigation controllers, involve cutting-edge electronics and wireless technology.
Fantastically innovative, and inexpensive, “Multi-Stream Nozzles” and micro sprays can replace existing nozzles in pop-up sprinklers. They apply water very slowly and greatly improve water distribution, so runoff is reduced and efficiency increases. MP Rotator offers the best assortment of adjustable nozzles for larger yards and parking strips. Rainbird’s XPCN is adjustable, with a 2.5′ to 4′ radius micro spray nozzle perfect for small spaces and intimate gardens.
Weather Based Controllers, called Smart Timers, help eliminate over-watering, run-off and other wasteful problems. All Smart Timers use current weather forecasts, plus “evapotranspiration” (ET) data, adjusting sprinkler times to apply the right amount of water, more in hot weather, less on cool days. The hippest new Smart Timer (from Cyber-Rain) runs from your home computer to completely automate the irrigation system, for under $350 (at the time of the writing of this article) (before rebate!).
New Direct-2-Root watering products have improved performance and durability and apply appropriate amounts of water and improved aeration directly into the soil, down in the root zone. Plants thrive! “Low flow” and “drip irrigation” conjures up visions of tangles of broken, unsightly black tubing, but our gardens now benefit from reliable, durable, hidden, agricultural “Landscape Drip” watering technology (made by Netafim or Hunter). Water is applied just under the surface, evaporation is reduced, runoff and overspray are both eliminated.
1) Get an Irrigation System Assessment from a CLCA-member Landscape Contractor (estimated cost of $100-$200+) to find out how to save as much water as possible. Some water agencies will perform this assessment for free.
2) Multi Starts – If that lawn needs 10 minutes of water a day in the summer, give it 3 minutes, 3 times (5am/6am/7am), and you’ll eliminate most runoff. Most traditional timers allow this; it’s usually simple to program.
3) MP Rotator nozzles work great and are cool to watch. After rebate, they cost a buck or two a head.
4) Contact your local Water Agency and request a rebate certification for a new Weather Based Controller – for most, a new weather-based timer may be surprisingly low-cost or free!