Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/PixabayWell designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

What’s Your Landscape Irrigation IQ?

Learn the basics of most irrigation systems, the key components of intelligent irrigation systems, and how to employ low pressure to maximize your system’s efficiency.

Conventional irrigation systems are notoriously inefficient

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

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.

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

Intelligent irrigation systems operate with efficiency

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 alternativeis 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 was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.