During our journey to conserve water, we have found that all methods and techniques fall into 3 categories. Using this framework has helped to simplify our process and has allowed us the opportunity to find more savings that we would not have thought of before. First, you can save water through having a tight, leak free system. We call that System Integrity. Next, you can save water through using less gallons in a scheduled cycle. Last, you can run less cycles.
To me, leaks in a system do not need an explanation as to why they waste water. We can rationalize their existence or pretend they are not there, but in the end, all they do is waste water than could be used for a better purpose. You need to have a tight, leak free system to properly manage it. This is something that can be verified through use of some common tools and time. Its time to start managing your system instead of working on it.
Using less gallons in a cycle is where your typical water conservation actions would fall. Changing heads and nozzles, making adjustments for slope and shade, and ET or seasonal adjustments to run times are all actions that are well documented in the industry. How many irrigation zones have you set the run time based on actual needs and conditions vs just picking a number? I was amazed at how much I could save just by turning down the time for each zone.
The last bucket of savings comes from how many times you run your system. In drought stricken areas, you will not have the opportunity for savings here. This is where we found most of our human error. Smart irrigation technology has given us sensors to use to help here. A simple example: If your system uses 50,000 gallons for a cycle, and your rain sensor stops it from running, you have saved 50,000 gallons. If you have a moisture sensor and it stopped you from running a cycle because you had just enough moisture in the ground, you saved 50,000 gallons. To save water, you need to adjust your thinking from how many days has it been since I irrigated, to a mindset of how many more days can I go without irrigating.
Think about your system and visualize areas that waste water. Can you turn down your turf zones by 1 minute without causing increased stress? On a system with 20 minute run times this alone will save 5%. Do your landscape zones really need to run? Rarely do established landscape plants need irrigation to thrive. Can you confidently tell someone that you have no leaks in your system? If not, that is job number 1.
Future posts will go into these three buckets of savings in more detail and I will show how we were able to make savings in each. Irrigation water conservation does not need to be hard and it does not need to sacrifice the aesthetics of your property. While brown grass is ok during times of drought, I prefer to have green grass that uses less water and uses it effectively.