Saving Our Valuable Austin Water While Keeping Your Landscape Healthy
As you’ve noticed, water restrictions have been getting enforced more and more. This is causing most Austinites to cut back on water and is making most of us more aware of what’s going on locally with water control. One way we can help control our water consumption (regarding landscape) is to make sure our irrigation systems are performing properly.
During a regular irrigation check, one can find numerous problems with a system. Most of the time it’s as simple as a clogged head or the mower has hit a head and its now watering the driveway. Sometimes, there can be more complex problems. Here are a couple of good ways you can check you sprinkler system and help head-off problems.
Walk your system to check cracked or broken irrigation pipes in the ground.
Either freeze or drought conditions can cause problems with your irrigation system. The best way to check for these problems is by physically running the system and walking the yard. A broken pipe will usually show itself by puddling water or mushy turf in an area. Walking the yard with the system on lets you know where all the heads are pointing and where your water is actually going (or not going). It’s always good habit to fix any issues immediately.
Install an irrigation freeze/rain sensor
Having a current and active freeze/ rain sensor helps out tremendously as well. Most of us have seen the infamous neighbor commercial business park with the irrigation running while its raining and we all chuckle, unfortunately that is a big waste of water. Having a rain sensor can save you quite a bit of wasted water. It’s always a good idea to have it mounted outside in the open out of the path of a roof line or the irrigation, most common places seem to be on fences ( wireless ones work great so your not limited to length of wire provided by manufacturer, just make sure to check the batteries)
The worst thing you could do is water while its freezing outside, I know it sounds funny but I have seen it first hand. Nothing like killing off 60% of your landscape. Freeze sensors will tell the controller not to run just like a rain sensor, but most of all we need to be more pro-active in getting our system ready for winter. I know it doesn’t freeze much here in south Texas but we do get the occasional hard freeze. Best thing to do is turn off your double check and drain your lines, this will allow air to get in the system and what little water is left will expand when it freezes but shouldn’t break any lines. A hard freeze can break main lines as well as crack valves since the main line is always under pressure while the double check is on and the valves always have one side of water on them. I have seen my fair share of broken mainlines and valves from a freeze.
Drip Irrigation Systems
The use of drip irrigation is becoming more and more common in landscaping, the city of Austin no longer allows pop up sprays in that little patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. In my opinion people shouldn’t even be allowed to plant grass in there. That is the perfect place to have a nice bed with native plants, drip irrigation, and either mulch or gravel. Turf tends to suffer in most of those areas during our 105 degree summer days as the concrete and street heat up and stay relatively hot during the night as well, thus leading to more frequent watering of these areas.
The city has also been cracking down on these fly by night irrigation installation companies, in the past, people would have rotors tied to pop up zones and so forth killing all the pressure for the pop ups and lack of water in needed areas. Another problem with the ill-informed companies is the fact the try to irrigate a turf area and a bed area on the same zone, you always end up with the same result, either over watered turf or under watered beds. If you notice any of those problems next time you turn on your system I would recommend having someone fix the problems for you because you are wasting water.
I mainly see these issues on older systems and try my hardest to educate my customers about the problems with their system and give them a remedy to fix the problems. To install an irrigation system now, you have to have a licensed installer and the helpers have to be a certified irrigation tech, which you have to comply with a certain amount of hours and pass a test to get.
The more educated people become about irrigation issues the more water can be conserved by everybody, before you go hire joe blow to install your irrigation ask to see credentials and get some referrals from customers they installed systems for 2 years ago and see what they have to say about the company and the system.