Since most of the country has been in a drought off and on for the last few years, cities are restricting watering the yard. They are fining those who waste water by watering the street or watering too long. This is an excellent time to audit your irrigation system to make sure you are using the water well.
The first step in an irrigation audit is to turn on the sprinklers in each zone of your yard, zone by zone. Check carefully to see if any of the sprinkler heads are not providing water, are misting or are acting like geysers, shooting water straight up in the air. Make a note of any problems you find and move to another zone. Do this until you have covered every zone and made notes of any problems in each zone.
Repair any problems you found when you were checking your sprinklers. You will easily save water by changing broken heads, adjusting water pressure so there is no misting, and realigning the spray as to not water on your hardscapes. These simple fixes can reduce the amount of water used by an average of 20%
Now, make sure that all of your plants are getting an equal amount of water from those sprinklers. Again, turn on a zone of your sprinklers and check to see that every plant is receiving water. You should also check to make sure that no plant is getting too much water from over lapping sprinklers. If you find problems, adjust the heads until they are fixed. Do this for each zone of the sprinklers.
Now you need to know how long it takes to water your lawn. You may think you know, but this step is worth taking anyway. Obtain several small containers, such as an empty tuna can or a small paper cup. Place these in several places in the zone you are testing. Turn on the water in that zone and leave it on until water starts running off the lawn or flower bed you are testing. Mark the time this takes and turn off the sprinklers in that zone. Check how much water is in your containers. If it is not a full inch, wait to empty the containers.
Let the zone you are testing rest long enough to stop the water running off. This may only be a few minutes or it may take a bit longer. Check each zone as described above. Record how long each zone takes to run off. Now, run the sprinklers in the first zone again until run off. Continue this process until you have watered the entire yard long enough to put an inch of water in your containers.
Use an irrigation timer on your irrigation system and set it to run on each zone sequentially until just before run off. Then let the system rest until the water sinks into the ground. Usually, by the time each zone has run the first zone is ready to run again. Repeat this however many times you have to in order to deliver an inch of water to all parts of your yard. The last thing to do is to get a rain switch and install it. This switch turns off the irrigation system if it is raining. It does no good to irrigate when it is raining and it is a waste of water and of the money you pay for your water.
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