Getting smarter, with water
When you think about irrigated crops, what likely comes to mind is corn, soy, and other agricultural crops. But the largest irrigated crop in the United States doesn’t end up on our dinner plate. It’s our lawns. Lawns are using 4x more irrigation than corn crops in our country.
Often, we are overwatering our lawns. Grass needs about 1” of water a week and that can come from rain or a hose. Cities utilities show 3X as much water is being used in summer compared to winter. There are a few places that use collected rain for irrigation, but most water for irrigation comes from our groundwater aquifers, the same place we get our drinking water. More water from these aquifers used for irrigation means less is available for us to drink, cook with and clean with. These aquifers are recharging much slower than we are taking water out, so conservation is important.
One way to make sure irrigation systems are giving grass only what it needs, is by installing a smart controller. While traditional controllers operate on preset programmed schedule or timers, smart irrigation controllers monitor weather, soil conditions, evaporation and plant water use to automatically adjust the watering schedule to actual conditions of the site. Therefore, only providing the lawn what it needs, and not watering when it is raining or has recently rained. Additionally, these controllers often pay for themselves in a short time with the water they save.
Other tips if you own an irrigation system.
- Make sure your irrigation system is set to the right time of year. Often systems will be set to irrigate for July water needs even though it is April, and cold, and rainy.
- Audit your system to ensure it’s operating as designed. This includes fixing issues with uniformity and broken sprinkler heads, and realigning sprinklers to not water on sidewalks, streets and driveways.
- Water in early morning to prevent water loss and mold build up. Set the timer for when you have breakfast so you can see if there are any issues with the system.