More than 50 percent of residential water use is for landscape irrigation. Of this amount, another 50 percent is wasted due to leaky or malfunctioning equipment or overscheduling of irrigation times.
Most homeowners know that plants and trees suffer without enough water. But do you know that overwatering can take an even greater toll on your landscape? Soggy, water-soaked soil can prevent air and nutrients from reaching plant roots. It can also invite problems like root rot and other plant diseases that result in serious damage and unwanted replacement costs down the road. Watering too much or too often can also register on your water bill as the costs of treating and pumping water increase all over the state.
Fortunately, significant water savings can be realized by implementing just a few simple practices. This practical guide will help you implement the kind of efficient watering practices that will keep your landscape green and healthy, and save you money, too.
Know Your Landscape
· Different areas of your yard are exposed to varying levels of sun, shade and wind. Shaded and sheltered areas are likely to require less water than open areas in full sun.
· For best results, take time to walk around your yard and make a water-use inventory. Look for telltale signs of overwatering, such as puddles, mud or the growth of moss or fungus. Also note areas that are dry. Make notes if you see you should make some adjustments.
During your inspection, see how water is being used on sloped or graded areas. Water requires more time to soak in on a slope, so plan for more frequent, shorter intervals. For example, if you water a flat area twice a week for 15 minutes, a slope with similar sun exposure may require three times a week for 10 minutes.
How Much Water Do You Need?
· The amount of water needed to keep shrubs, trees and lawn areas healthy depends on a wide variety of environmental factors including climate, season, and type of soil, grading and the specific type of plant, tree or grass.
Once you've become familiar with your landscape, consider having a water audit performed by the Water Resources Association of San Benito County (WRASBC) and it’s free! If you have an automatic irrigation system, the audit will tell you how much you actually need and how well your system is doing the job. The audit will evaluate the performance of the control valves, sprinkler heads and the controller (also called the time clock).The WRASBC will even program your controller for you.
When Is The Best Time To Water?
· In general, it's best to water in the early morning when winds are usually at their lowest. Avoid any irrigation during hottest part of the day.
· Avoid watering when it's windy so water doesn't blow off target onto paved surfaces.
· You may not need to water at all during rainy winter months, so don't forget to turn off your automatic irrigation system. Get to know your irrigation system because your irrigation system is often set to run while you're sleeping or not around to watch, it's wise to turn it on every month or two so you can see how it is performing.
· Check and adjust sprinkler heads to make sure they are not clogged and are pointed in the right direction.
· Check for any pipe damage. If you see a sheet of water running down a slope, suspect a broken pipe or sprinkler head.
· Check the battery on the controller or time clock at least once a year.
· Consider replace existing sprinkler spray nozzles with more efficient rotating sprinklers that have a lower application rate. The WRASBC offers rebates on these nozzles and can assist you in programming your controller.
Controlling the Controller
· Your automatic controller or time clock tells the valves of your irrigation system when to turn on and when to turn off. Programming the time properly is critical to efficient water use. Make sure your time clock can be adjusted for changing weather and landscape requirements, and most importantly, don't forget to adjust for those changing conditions.
· If your system is not already outfitted with a sensor that stops watering when it's raining, call the WRASBC to find out how you can have a sensor added. The WRASBC has rebates on rain sensors! The way the time clock is set will vary depending on make and model. All time clocks, however, can be set to control three basic functions: The duration of the watering cycle; What time (or times) the system will water; and What day (or days) the system will water
What About Drip Irrigation Systems?
· Drip systems are designed to deliver low volumes of water, under low pressure, through flexible tubing to specific plants or plant areas. They can be used almost anywhere (except on the lawn). Consider a drip system for container plants, hedgerows or shrubbery where lawn equipment, pets or people won't disturb the tubing. Drip systems may require a bit more maintenance because tubes can become dislodged, but they do deliver water precisely to the root system.
· Don't water anything you don't want to keep green. Water should never puddle up on sidewalks or patios or driveways, and keep sprinkler heads from spraying your foundation walls and other hardscape surfaces. After all, concrete, asphalt and brickwork all deteriorate more quickly when they are constantly washed with water.
Words to The Water-Wise
· The amount of water your landscape needs differs considerably depending on the climate and season.
· Allow lawn areas to dry out slightly between waterings.
· Because soil compacts over time, have your lawn aerated at least once a year. Aeration pulls out plugs of soil and opens the pores so air and water can get in. Over time, aeration may actually reduce the amount of water plants need because they are getting the benefit of every drop.
· In general, new plantings will require more frequent waterings than older plants with more established root systems.
· Roots will grow only where they can get water. Shallow watering results in shallow root systems that can dry out more quickly during hot spells. When you water, water deeply.
· Allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings is critical. Muddy or soggy soil is a sign of trouble.
· To keep soil from drying out too fast around shrubbery or in flowerbeds, apply a layer of compost where unprotected earth is exposed to the sun.
To prevent overwatering trees in the lawn area, keep grass about two feet away from the trunk. Periodically use a shovel or spade to check the moisture content of the soil below the surface. Even if the surface appears to be dry, the soil at root level (six to eight inches deep) might be quite moist.
Here are some Water Resources Association of San Benito County orograms to assist you in being water-wise:
FREE Home Water Survey, including:
· Leak check
· Showerheads and faucet aerators
· Irrigation check
· Suggested watering schedule
· High-quality hose nozzle
· Water softener assistance
Landscape Hardware Rebates
The Water Resources Association has rebates on hose timers, rain sensors and MP Rotator irrigation nozzles and sprinkler bodies for these nozzles with built-in pressure regulators. 50% rebate (up to $100) on qualifying products.
Free Water Wise Landscape Plans
The Water Resources Association has FREE water wise landscape plans. Three different garden design concepts ($500 value). Installing a water wise garden will save water and money, plus they require less maintenance time
Turf Removal Rebate
The WRASBC is offering residential and commercial customers rebates in return for reducing the amount of lawn area in their landscapes and replacing with low water use landscapes. The WRASBC will rebate you up to $1 for every square foot of lawn area removed (up to 500 square feet). Lawns must be well maintained before removal.
Water-Wise Garden Dunne Park (corner of Sixth and Powell streets in Hollister)
The WRASBC installed a water-wise garden at the corner of 6th and Powell streets in downtown Hollister. Good examples of drought tolerant and native plants, efficient irrigation system and permeable pavers. Brochures are available online or by request.
The WRASBC has reference books available on loan. Books on landscape principals and plants can be borrowed for your use.
Each year the WRASBC offers free workshops. One was in May and another will be in October. The fall is a great time to plant native California plants so they can get established with the winter rains.
The WRASBC also offers rebates and free water fixtures (showerheads, toilets, faucet aerators and hose nozzles). Rebates are available for high-efficiency clothes washers and water softeners. Call the office for details and funding is limited on all programs and rebates.
The WRASBC can be reached at (831) 637-4378 or contact Shawn Novack, Water Conservation Program Manager by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The WRASBC is a locally-based agency focused on water resource management in San Benito County. It represents the City of Hollister, the City of San Juan Bautista, Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District. Check out its website for more water-saving tips: www.wrasbc.org