Choosing the right irrigation system

Did you know that about half of the water used at the average home goes towards landscape irrigation, and that about half of the landscape water is wasted? Most sprinkler systems are inefficient and tend to waste a lot of water.

The most water-efficient irrigation system is watering by hand, which tends to use the least amount of water on landscapes. The drawback with this method is that people are not always available when the plants need watering, so the latter become unhealthy and the former unhappy. A  WaterSmart landscape incorporates the most water-efficient plants, requiring no more than once per week watering, even during the summer (certain short-rooted plants in hot sunny parts of the landscape).

But when the convenience of an in-ground irrigation system is needed, it’s important to know that different types of systems are more water-efficient than others.  Below are the major types of water-efficient irrigation systems.

  1. Drip Irrigation
    Drip irrigation is a precise, slow, direct system of applying water to the soil, which makes 100% of the water available to the plant.  Where drip systems release so many gallons of water per hour, traditional sprayheads release up to four or more gallons per minute. The environmental and water-saving benefits of drip include decreased run-off, evaporation, and overspray. Drip irrigation is often preferred where there are relatively few plants spread over a large area (for example, a few large bushes with a lot of open space between them) or where there are hard-to-water areas such as narrow planters. When installing drip, a device to lower the water pressure and a special filter to keep the system from clogging up must be included. Click here ( for more information on drip irrigation.
  2. Bubblers
    Bubblers are a form of precise watering that deliver water deep into the soil – hence, it is especially useful around plants that have deep roots, such as trees. Bubblers are also useful in certain planter boxes where traditional sprinklers will not work. Bubblers are durable, require little maintenance, require minimal filtration, minimize overspray and evaporation, and have an easily adjustable flow rate.
  3. Stream Rotor Pop-ups
    Stream rotors replace traditional pop-up sprayheads by screwing the old top (the nozzle) off the pop-up and screwing the stream rotor back in its place. Compared to traditional sprayheads, stream rotors are fairly water conserving and only release about 25 percent of the water per minute; reducing evaporation and reducing runoff. Stream rotors work well where there’s need to water a lot of plants that have fairly short root systems, like many groundcovers and bunchgrasses. The alternative irrigation system is to run an extensive drip system.

Smart Controller:  Upgrade to a Smart Controller (often called a weather-based controller), which is an automatic controller (also called a timer or clock) that is either weather-based or has a moisture detection system that automatically adjusts watering schedule in response to environmental changes. Smart controllers have the ability to turn off your sprinklers when it rains and increase the frequency and/or duration of watering in hotter weather. Locate the controller in a place that is easy for you to access, such as the garage.

Water Pressure:  Check your available water pressure to ensure that you choose the right irrigation equipment for your home. To determine your water pressure, follow one of these two steps:  (1) Contact your local retail water purveyor and request a pressure reading; (2) Check your pressure with a gauge (available at your local landscape supply store) at a hose bib. If your house has a hose bib located on the water line before the line enters the house, test the pressure at that location as it will tell you the available pressure before water passes through the pressure regulator for the house. It is important to identify your available water pressure so you can select equipment that is optimized for that operating pressure. If your pressure is high (above 70 psi), a pressure regulator may be needed to avoid misting. If your pressure is low (under 30 psi), drip irrigation would be the ideal choice as it has a lower operating pressure.

Important:  If you use more than one type of irrigation, do not mix different sprinkler types in one zone.