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Take time to learn about your possibleWaterSmart Living irrigation choices. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Installing WaterSmart Living Irrigation

Successfully installing WaterSmart Living irrigation starts long before you get out your tools. You need to complete an assessment of your landscape plan’s specific water needs, draw a complete plan showing the layout, then select your irrigation and purchase your irrigation equipment. If your soil needs amendments (and it almost certainly does), you must get this done first. With all of this important prep work complete, you can start to implement the design.

Five key steps to success

Be sure your irrigation plan considers hills and slopes to prevent waste and erosion. Photo: Pixabay

Step 1: Read the instructions from the manufacturer and familiarize yourself with all the parts of your new irrigation system. Often the manufacturer will provide YouTube video demonstrations which can be extremely helpful.

Step 2: Starting from the main connection to the water line, dig trenches for all the pipes according to your irrigation plan. Ideally, the main connection to the water line will be downstream of the water meter and upstream of the connection to the house.

If you tie into a rear yard hose bib, be aware that the water pressure will be lower because the water for your house is regulated by a separate pressure regulator.

Step 3: Lay an extra pipe sleeve or two under any new hardscape elements. This allows you to add pipes or wires in the future. Be sure to cover the ends of the pipe with duct tape before covering and mark the location on your landscape plan.

Step 4: If you are using drip irrigation, you may want to hold off installing your drip emitters until after planting is complete. With your new plants in the ground, you can place the emitters precisely where the water best irrigates your new plants. Be sure to place them at least six inches away from the plant’s stem to prevent rot.

Step 5: Consult your local irrigation supply store or the major irrigation manufacturers if you need more detailed installation guides or help with troubleshooting. Manufacturers offer toll-free customer service phone help, online chats, and email.

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WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart choices are a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.)

Every drop of water is precious. Maximizing irrigation efficiency goes a long way toward conserving our water resources. Photo: Ju Irun / Pixabay

Boost Your Irrigation IQ

To support and protect your investment in waterwise landscaping, you need to have a strong irrigation IQ and understand the basics. You’ll be able to best maintain and maximize your system’s efficiency, which is vitally important during times of drought in the San Diego region.

Conventional irrigation systems can be inefficient

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it's unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz irrigation IQ

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it’s unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz

Well-designed and operated systems can reliably deliver the necessary water to sustain your landscaping without waste or excess. Poorly performing systems can suffer due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management.

A shutoff valve (ball valve) can be manually operated to cut off the water supply in the event of a leak, a malfunction, or a major repair.

The anti-siphon valve, when activated by an irrigation controller, delivers water through a PVC pipe lateral irrigation line, ultimately reaching the sprinkler head, which applies the water to your landscaping.

Intelligent irrigation systems operate efficiently

Efficient irrigation components are designed to operate at lower pressure levels, as specified by each product manufacturer. Devices are more likely to fail under excess pressure, and damage can occur.

A pressure regulator will eliminate excess pressure.

A submeter can be installed where the irrigation system tees off the mainline to the house. It is a recommended option for large properties to keep track of the actual volume of water being applied to the landscape. Single-family homes typically have a single mixed-use meter which doesn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor water use. An alternative is to install a flow sensor working in tandem with a smart controller.

Low-volume irrigation devices like rotary nozzles and micro or drip irrigation are designed to deliver water to the landscape at a slower rate. This better approximates the infiltration rate of the soil and reduces runoff.

Smart controllers will automatically adjust irrigation schedules in response to changing weather conditions. They come in two varieties. ET controllers monitor weather conditions. Soil moisture-based controllers directly sample the moisture in the ground. These devices also have features like “cycle and soak functions that can help eliminate runoff. When selecting a controller, look for brands with the EPA WaterSense ® label.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Efficient irrigation-landscaping-Conservation Corner aspects of sustainable landscaping can help you ensure the success of your project. Photo: Water Authority landscape professional

Efficient Irrigation Delivers Water While Protecting Plants

Due to the lack of rainfall in the San Diego region, even sustainable landscaping sometimes relies on artificial irrigation. Irrigation systems must be thoughtfully designed, installed, and programmed. Once in place, the many interconnected mechanical elements must be maintained properly for optimal performance.

“Irrigation efficiency” is a way of describing how well your irrigation system is doing its job delivering water for the beneficial use of the plants in your landscaping.

When irrigation system efficiency isn’t maximized, it can cause you to use more water than needed. Possible problems fall in three major categories: site conditions in your landscaping, irrigation control, and the uniform distribution of water by your irrigation system.

How to maximize irrigation impact

You may want to get help planning your irrigation system from a qualified professional. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

There are three ways to improve your irrigation system efficiency:

  • Smart Irrigation Management
  • State of the Art System Upgrades
  • Matching Irrigation to Your Hydrozones

Setting and forgetting your irrigation controller is a thing of the past. Even if you don’t have a “smart” irrigation controller to adjust your program for weather conditions, be more proactive in managing your watering, and more closely try to match your watering schedule with the actual water needs of your landscaping.

Upgrading your system with state-of-the-art components is a good investment and the single most significant thing you can do to save water.

Tips on professional help

You may decide to get professional help with your irrigation system. Look for designers or contractors qualified to provide these services. Credentials such as the Irrigation Association’s Certified Irrigation Designer designation can help assure your project will be successful. You can also ask if your contractor is a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL).

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Turf rebates-Fall planting-November 2020-

Lawn Rebates for Fall Planting Season

Fall planting season is underway and a great time to take advantage of rebates for replacing your lawn.

“Fall is like a second spring for planting in our region and it’s also a great opportunity for residents to take advantage of some outdoor incentives as they replace grass with climate appropriate plants,” said Joni German, water resources specialist at the San Diego County Water Authority.

Lawn replacement rebates

Turf replacement rebates of $3 per square foot are available for residents in the Water Authority service area, she said. The rebates include $2 per square foot from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, with an additional $1 per square foot from the Water Authority, for up to 5,000 square feet of lawn converted in front or back yard.

German suggests residential customers use the rebate estimator to determine the amount they would receive for removing their turf.

“For example, if San Diego residents are removing 1,000 square feet of turf, their rebate will be $3,000 – $2,000 from MWD and $1,000 from the Water Authority,” said German.

Turf rebates-November 2020-before-fall planting

BEFORE: This homeowner took advantage of rebates to transform the front yard into a colorful landscape with climate-appropriate plants. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority.

Turf rebates-after-November 2020-fall planting

AFTER: This homeowner took advantage of turf rebates to transform the front yard with climate-appropriate plants. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority.

Free landscape makeover help

For landscape makeover assistance, German encourages residents to visit WaterSmartSD.org, the Water Authority’s conservation website, and take advantage of free landscape education through the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. This program assists homeowners with landscape transformations through a variety of virtual formats including:

  • Three-hour workshops
  • Four-class series
  • Videos on demand

Homeowners can also visit the website to find landscape resources such as free onsite audits, finding a landscape professional, rebates on indoor and outdoor water saving devices, links to programming irrigation controllers, an online plant database and how to install a rain barrel.

Other water-saving practices include turning off irrigation systems when rainstorms are predicted (and leave them off for at least a week after significant rainfall) and installing rain barrels or cisterns to help capture stormwater from roofs and store it for future irrigation use.

“Adjusting irrigation is an easy way to increase water efficiency, since landscapes need less water as the days get shorter and cooler,” said German.

Rebates are also available for weather-based irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rain barrels or cisterns. There are also incentives for commercial customers to increase their water efficiency, with indoor and outdoor rebates. The rebates are processed through SoCal WaterSmart.

San Diego County Website Helps Residents Protect Watershed

Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs. The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage.

A new County of San Diego online resource can help you protect watershed by diverting it from the storm drain system. Photo: NIH.gov

San Diego County Website Helps Residents Protect Watershed

Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs.

But rainfall turns into an unwelcome problem when it enters the storm drain system. After the first heavy rain in several months, stormwater runoff gathers pollutants building up on surfaces like rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks, and streets. This polluted water gets carried into street drains that dump out directly into the Pacific Ocean. Pollutants harm waterways and affect sea animals, plants, and the people who surf, swim, or dive in the ocean.

Residents may be contributing to this problem between rainstorms without realizing it. Your yard drainage system including French drains, weeping tiles, and sub-surface drains should not be used for non-stormwater water runoff.  They are intended only to prevent flooding by diverting rainwater from your property to the road or street.

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, or wash water runs off hardscapes or sidewalks, these non-stormwater activities may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC, says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

Stormwater diversion tips

The website shares these tips to prevent non-stormwater runoff from carrying pollutants into our waterways.

  • Redirect sprinkler heads and hose down items such as patio furniture away from your yard drain.
  • Temporarily cover your yard drain with a bowl or mat when watering.
  • Use dry methods such as sweeping to clean your gutters, patio, and yard.

Your property should also integrate best practices to slow down and divert natural stormwater runoff after heavy rains. Three common methods include:

  • Detention: Protect against flooding by temporarily pooling runoff on your property, allowing pollutants to settle before being discharged to the storm drain system.
  • Infiltration: Divert stormwater runoff to areas where water can soak into the soil and benefit from natural filtering such as gravel, mulch, or grassy trenches.
  • Vegetated: Uses landscape plants and soil to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff through flow-thru planters, buffer strips, and vegetated swales.

Yard drains and diversion methods should regularly be cleared of debris so they operate properly and are ready for a storm event. It’s a good time to do it now while the sun is shining in San Diego.

Washington Farmers Urged To Contact Wildlife Officials Before Turning Off Irrigation Systems To Help Save Fish

Farmers pump water from streams through irrigation canals and fish can also end up in those canals. When the irrigation season is over, fish are often left stranded.

Before farmers and other irrigators shut down their irrigation systems this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says to call them to ensure fish are not left stranded.

Farmers divert or pump water from streams through irrigations canals to water crops and livestock, but fish also end up in those canals. Experts said when the irrigation system is shut off, fish often end up stranded in the empty canals.