Irrigation systems and landscaping are something home and business owners often hire a professional for design, inspections, and repairs. As that professional, you have the opportunity to suggest irrigation methods, equipment, and landscaping practices that help home and business owners not only conserve water, but also save money on their monthly water bill. To ensure optimal performance of landscaping and an irrigation system, water efficiency must be considered from the initial design through installation. Routine management and maintenance are also critical, failure to do so can result in losses in efficiency from poor management, improper system design, installation, or maintenance.
Important steps to be cognizant of water conservation include site preparation, plant selection, and system controllers and sensors. Limit the removal of native vegetation and soils, once established they will require less supplemental watering. If there are steep slopes in the landscape, reduce the potential for runoff by either grading appropriately or terracing. If slopes cannot be avoided in landscape design, install plants with deeper root zones to provide stabilization and prevent erosion. Before the landscape is installed, ensure that the soil is properly amended, tilled, and contoured to hold water.
When considering your choices of plants for the landscape, be aware of site conditions and chose plants that will thrive in the area soil and climate conditions. Group plants with similar irrigation needs together to avoid underwatering and overwatering plants next to each other. When designing or revamping a property’s landscape, consider installing rain gardens, bioretention areas, bioswales, or other green infrastructure throughout the landscape. These features should include locally adapted or appropriate plantings designed to capture rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and sidewalks. These features can keep water on the property and absorb up to 40 percent more runoff than typical lawns. Rain barrels and cisterns that capture rainwater can also serve as a supplemental irrigation water source. Cobb County Water System has a demonstration site at the Water Quality Laboratory that is open to the public. For more information on rain gardens, visit our Rain Garden page.
Although it is possible in our area to design a landscape that can live on rainfall alone, some irrigation may be needed to ensure landscape health and maintain an aesthetic property, especially in the early planting stages. The key to reducing irrigation water use is to combine efficient irrigation practices with efficient technologies. When installing irrigation equipment, whether new or for replacement, consider installing WaterSense labeled products, such as irrigation controllers and spray sprinkler bodies, which are independently certified to meet EPA’s efficiency and performance criteria. These products can increase water efficiency, provide water cost savings, improve tenant satisfaction, and help reduce maintenance costs. Irrigation systems are typically connected to the same water line as drinking water. Save this water for necessary purposes by using alternative water sources, such as collected rainwater, condensate from air conditioners, or boiler blowdown, for irrigation.
With the irrigation system hardware operating efficiently, it is important to consider the irrigation schedule, which determines the amount and timing of the water applied. The amount of rainfall changes with the seasons, as should irrigation schedules. Many landscapes are watered at the same level all year, adding unnecessary water for months at a time. Overwatering can cause more damage to plant materials than underwatering and can damage streets, curbs, other paving, and building foundations. Many home and business owners do not look at, or even understand, their controller. By taking the time to explain this step, can help your customer maintain a beautiful landscape with minimal water use.