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Water Conservation Ideas for Sprinkler Systems

Water Conservation Tips for Residential and Commercial Landscape Irrigation Professionals

The Intelligent Use of Water™ is about using water efficiently — in the most precise and even manner possible, minimizing waste. The following pages contain a number of best practices and product suggestions that can be used to manage water more efficiently.

1. Promote the water/cost saving benefits of water conserving products 
Water conservation products are better for the environment AND they can save money. Some customers may need to be educated on the benefits of purchasing a more expensive water conserving product, even though it will save them money in the long run. For an example, try the Rain Bird 1800 PRS savings calculator on our website. You’ll see how an upgrade to a pressure regulating device on a spray head can save water and money. Design, install, and sell water-conserving products that benefit the environment and the customer’s checkbook.

2. Design for different plant needs and environmental conditions
Set up irrigation zones and schedules for plants based on the water needs of your plant groupings. This will require more zones and may cost more initially but will save water in the long run. For example, suppose a landscape includes grass, shrubs, and trees, and the grass requires more water to stay healthy than do the shrubs and trees. If everything is on the same zone, the watering needs will be dictated by the grass, and the shrubs and tress will be over-watered. With separate zones controlled by separate programs on a controller, you can divide the schedule into smaller, more precise watering times and apply on the water needed for the particular plant (all Rain Bird controllers include a minimum of two programs).

3. Use pressure regulating devices in high pressure situations 
Every 5 psi reduction in water pressure reduces water usage by 6-8%. The savings are over 50% if a 70 psi spray zone is reduced to the recommended 30 psi. So, design for an optimum 30 psi water delivery to spray heads to avoid wasteful misting/fogging. This can be achieved with pressure regulating spray heads (1800-PRS), pressure reducing valves, and pressure regulating modules installed on valves (PRS-D). For an example of water-savings, try the Rain Bird 1800 PRS savings calculator here on our website. For low pressure situations which can result in uneven coverage, use a high efficiency pump.

4. Use check valve devices to prevent low head drainage
In landscaping with different elevations, water flows down to the lowest head on the system and drains out, causing puddling, erosion, and run-off. A check valve or pre-installed Seal-A-Matic™ (SAM) device prevents the water from draining out by trapping the water in the lateral line (SAM available on 1800 Series and UNI-Spray™ Spray heads and all Rain Bird rotors).

5. Use high efficiency nozzles for uniform coverage
Use nozzles that apply water evenly and save up to 30% in water usage. This is best achieved using matched precipitation rate nozzles (MPR and U-Series spray head nozzles and all rotor nozzles). If precipitation is not matched, the system must be set to water the area that is putting down the least amount of water, thereby over-watering the other areas and wasting water. High efficiency nozzles (U-Series nozzles on spray heads and Rain Curtain nozzles on rotors) are matched precipitation nozzles that provide the best and most uniform coverage, thereby eliminating watering gaps and reducing water usage…by as much as 30%. For an example, see the U-Series Savings Calculator on our website.

6. Install direct-to-plant-root irrigation in non-turf areas
Use drip irrigation for shrubs, flowers, and other non-turf areas. Drip irrigation systems deliver precise amounts of water slowly and evenly at the plant’s roots, eliminating water waste, run-off and over spray onto windows, walks and streets. The slow, consistent application of water at the plant root reduces weeds and plant disease, and helps plants to thrive (Rain Bird’s Low Volume Drip ProductsIrrigation Supplement, and Root Watering System for trees).

7. Use flow control devices
Install valves with flow control that allow you to better manage the flow of your system and prevent run-off (included in Rain Bird’s DVFASVFPGAPEGBEFB-CP, and BPE Valves).

8. Use an automatic shut-off device on every system
Adding an automatic shut-off device can result in 15-20% in water savings. Install an automatic shut-off device like a rain sensor or moisture sensor on every system. These devices automatically shut-off the controller when it is raining or when sufficient soil moisture is reached. They prevent over-watering and the bad publicity that results from sprinklers running when it rains (Rain Bird’s Rain Sensors).

9. Always install an automatic controller with water-conserving functions 
The following are some of the key features currently available in controllers for maximum flexibility and water efficiency:

  • Multiple start times – allows several shorter and more precise run times to prevent run-off and puddles (found in all Rain Bird controllers)
  • Multiple independent programs – allow the watering schedule to be divided into smaller, more precise watering schedules to accommodate the watering needs of different types of plant life (found in Rain Bird’s ESP ModularESP-LX Modular , ESP-MCSite Control, and Maxicomsystem)
  • Water Budget – provides easy and flexible adjustments to the amount of water used for irrigation (found in Rain Bird’s Ec, ESP Modular, ESP-LX Modular, ESP-MC, Site Control and Maxicom system)
  • Rain Delay – allows the user to pause a watering schedule when irrigation isn’t needed and resume watering when appropriate (found in Rain Bird’s ESP-LX Modular, MC, Site Control and Maxicom system)
  • Cycle + Soak™ – applies water at a rate that the soil can accept, reducing erosion, run-off, and waste (found in Rain Bird’s ESP-LX Modular, MC and Maxicom system)
  • Flow Management – enables the controller to detect system problems like line breaks or broken sprinklers and shuts down irrigation to the affected zones to prevent water waste (found in Rain Bird’s Site Control and Maxicom system)
  • ET Programming – enables the controller to calculate daily evapotranspiration (ET) values and adjust the station run times to replace only the water used by the plants. This maintains a healthy landscape while minimizing water use (found in Rain Bird’s ET Manager, Site Control and Maxicom system).

10. For complete system automation on commercial sites, consider a central control system
Central control systems show annual water savings of 25 – 30% on average. A central control system operates a single or multiple controllers, sensors and other irrigation devices from one central location. It contains all of the functions listed in the Controller section above plus additional sensors that monitor and control environmental conditions…automatically and without the need for personal intervention. See Rain Bird’s website for testimonials and cost/water savings examples using central control systems (Rain Bird’s Maxicom2 and Site Control).

11. Set sprinklers to water early in the morning
Set up systems to irrigate between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Early in the morning is the most efficient time to water because water can reach its destination without being evaporated by the sun or blown away by the wind. This will also save landscapes from disease caused by water sitting on plants overnight and prevents compaction caused by heavy traffic on wet soils (all Rain Bird Controllers offer multiple start time options).

12. Become more educated about irrigation efficiency:
Become IA Certified

By becoming IA certified you will become more knowledgeable about designing and installing efficient irrigation systems. Much of the coursework includes information on water-conserving products and techniques. By understanding these, you can perform irrigation audits to assess the efficiency of an irrigation system. And, you can better educate your customers on the benefits of an efficient, water-conserving irrigation system to a healthy environment. Contact the Irrigation Association (IA) for more information.