Friday, January 22, 2010

Reducing outdoor water use

The Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) visits properties that participate in the Irrigation Retrofit Program to assess the irrigation systems (see right hand column for more information). We look for inefficiency in irrigation systems.

Some things that may cause inefficient irrigation include:
Broken or cracked sprinklers – This is one of the main areas of waste we see when visiting properties. Damage done by mowers, edgers, cars etc. can lead to large leaks from broken sprinklers. The repairs can be as simple as removing the previous sprinkler and replacing it with a new one.

Pipe leaks
– Leaks in pipes can develop over time for several reasons including damage from tree roots. It is important to walk around the yard to look for overly wet areas where underground leaks may be occurring. An underground pipe leak may cause a hole in the ground and in grass it can produce an area that is greener than the surrounding landscape. Also, a high concentration of some weeds in a particular area, such as dollar weed, may be a sign that an underground leak is occurring.

Clogged heads – This is a problem because it can cause dry spots in the yard. Turning the irrigation on longer will not fix the dry spot, only unclogging the sprinkler nozzle will help.

Incorrect schedule – There is such a thing as TOO MUCH WATER. Plant roots need oxygen as much as they need water. If you apply too much water then you are increasing the risk of disease, fungus, and weeds in your lawn as well as wasting water.

To prevent inefficient irrigation:

Check your irrigation system regularly – turn it on every couple of months and walk around looking for any problems. Keep an eye on other signs that there might be a problem with the irrigation system (dry or overly wet patches in the yard, holes in the ground, water in the gutter on irrigation days).
Keep up with the simple repairs – If you would like to learn how to perform basic repairs on your irrigation system please visit the IFAS publication titled “Basic Repairs and Maintenance of Home Landscape Irrigation Systems.”
Learn how much water you should be applying – To do this you can visit the Urban Irrigation Scheduler developed by the University of Florida. A general rule of thumb is to never apply more than ½ to ¾ of an inch of water at a time. Do you know how quickly your system applies water? If not read the IFAS publication titled “How to Calibrate Your Sprinkler System.”
Install water saving technology – This includes rain sensors, soil moisture sensors or ET controllers. These devices prevent unnecessary irrigation from occurring. The Irrigation Retrofit Program (see right hand column) offers free soil moisture sensors to homeowners who participate.

If you have any questions please contact:
Mary McCready
FYN Extension Agent
305-248-3311 ext. 230

Image credits: Michael Gutierrez

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