Fighting water waste is part of every irrigation professional’s job description. This year’s Fix a Leak Week is a great time to remind your customers of your commitment to water efficiency.
Irrigation System Leaks
One small irrigation system leak — the thickness of a dime — can waste about 6,300 gallons of water each month! Advise your customers of the importance of the spring checkup. To ensure irrigation system components haven’t been damaged by frost or freezing weather, they should always be inspected prior to startup.
Become WaterSense Certified
If you’re not already WaterSense certified, you may want to consider the following exclusive benefits:
Are you WaterSense certified? (See sidebar at right.) If so, now’s the time to let your customers know that you’ve passed an EPA program specifically dedicated to improving water efficiency. So not only can you help identify and correct any irrigation system leaks, you can also ensure their system is performing optimally.
Research has shown that the typical home wastes between 2,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per year due to leaks. Individually and collectively, the leaks in a single home can easily waste thousands of gallons of water every year, costing both the homeowner and the utility.
So during Fix a Leak Week, remind your customers to check for leaky faucets or showerheads, as well as malfunctioning toilets. This will demonstrate to them that you’re serious about water efficiency.
You can also provide them with some simple ways to pinpoint household leaks. Such as:
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Check your household water usage during one of the colder months (January or February). If a family of four is using more than 12,000 gallons per month, there are some serious leaks.
Record the odometer-type number on your water meter. Then turn off all household water for two hours. Then check the meter again. If the number has changed at all, you’ve likely got a leak.
Identify toilet leaks by placing one drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. After 10 minutes, check the bowl. If there’s color in the bowl, you have a leak.
Some Simple Fixes
Many faucet leaks can be remedied by simply replacing worn-out washers and gaskets
Got a leaky toilet? Try replacing the flapper.
For a leaky showerhead, make sure there’s a tight connection between the fixture and the pipe stem. Then secure it with pipe tape (also called Teflon tape).
Join Us November 16 at the
Ohio Statehouse for Advocacy Day!
Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is hosted by the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA) and the Ohio Irrigation Association.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to network with green industry colleagues, meet with your state legislators, and make your voice heard on issues critical to irrigation professionals.
This year, our participation in this grassroots effort is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the state’s resources to the point where some agencies will have to resort to raising their fees. Since 2021 is a budget year, we can influence these discussions.
House and Senate term limits mean there will be many new faces in the state legislature, as well as in committees and chairs. Let’s make ourselves known to them!
Free to Ohio IA Members
Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is FREE to Ohio IA members who register by October 25 ($89 for non-members).
As one of the events sponsors, we’re counting on you. Legislative and regulatory advocacy is one of the key benefits of Ohio IA membership which is strengthened by your active participation.
Advocacy Day provides a unique opportunity to build relationships with both green industry business partners, and members of the Ohio legislature and their staff. After all, who can tell our story better than you?
Free to Ohio IA members; $89 for non-members (includes lunch)
What to Expect
The morning session will feature key legislative speakers, after which attendees will be briefed on discussion issues for the legislative meetings scheduled in the afternoon.
The afternoon meetings with elected officials provide an opportunity to discuss key irrigation issues (like water quality, water quantity, and environmental reforms) and state policymakers. Our legislators must hear from us in order to make informed decisions about issues critical to our industry.
Save Water by Avoiding These Design and Installation Errors
To err is human. But that doesn’t mean some errors can’t be avoided. Irrigation mistakes often result in wasted water, and that reflects poorly on the industry.
Here are some of the most common missteps that can occur when designing and installing landscape irrigation systems.
#1. Mixing Sprinkler Head Types Within a Single Zone
Installing different types of irrigation heads within the same zone to operate at the same time is not a good idea. The precipitation / application rates of the various emitters used for rotors, sprays, bubblers, and drip systems are entirely different.
For instance, nozzles for rotor heads have a much lower IPH (inches per hour) rate than those for spray heads. So if you install a rotor head in a zone with spray heads, you’ll create a dry spot. Then, you’ll have to run this irrigation zone longer in order to apply enough water to cover the dry area, wasting both water and money.
#2. Setting the Same Running Times for All Zones
It’s important to program the irrigation controller so that the different zone types (rotor, spray, drip, etc.) have different running times. Again, because the precipitation rates differ for the various types of irrigation heads, the operating times should also be different. A zone with 0.20 IPH heads, for instance, will obviously need to run longer than an irrigation zone with 1.60 IPH heads.
According to the experts at Irrigation & Green Industry (IGIN) magazine, it’s a good idea for contractors to periodically assess their design and installation techniques in order to avoid irrigation mistakes. IGIN suggests asking yourself three questions:
Am I meeting — or exceeding – my customers’ expectations?
Am I doing so in such a way as to maximize my own profits?
Am I a responsible member of my community and setting a good example for the green industry?
Whenever the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it’s time to stop and reevaluate your methods.
#3. Failing to Achieve Head-to-Head Coverage
Regardless of whether you’re using sprays or rotors, all zones should provide head-to-head coverage. That means the maximum distance between heads/nozzles in each irrigation zone should match the nozzle manufacturer’s maximum throwing distance (10 feet, 15 feet, 25 feet, 35 feet, etc.) for that nozzle at your working pressure.
Do not attempt to increase the distance between heads in order to save on design, installation, operational or maintenance costs.
#4. Failing to Match Precipitation Rates
Some irrigation professionals incorrectly assume that they should use the same gallon per minute (GPM) nozzles in every head within a zone if they want to evenly water that area. Not so. There’s a reason system manufacturers produce so many different GPM nozzles.
By matching precipitation rates of the nozzles, you can save between 10 and 40 percent of the water used in any given zone. For instance, a rotor head that covers 1/3 of a circle should apply approximately 1/3 of the GPM as a rotor head in the same zone which covers a full circle. (For a more detailed explanation, see “Matched Precipitation Rates: Key to Water Efficiency.”)
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#5. Incorporating Planting Beds in the Same Zone as Grassy Areas
Improper zoning is one of the most common irrigation mistakes. Grassy areas should always be irrigated separately from shrub and planting beds. Almost all landscape plants have larger root systems than grass. This means they can exist on half of the amount of water that grass requires. Separate shrub/planting zones should be scheduled to irrigate more deeply but less often as turf zones.
#6. Neglecting to Install or Retrofit Rain Sensors
A rain sensor may be a contractor’s most valuable tool for reducing water waste. (After all, irrigation should always be regarded as a back-up for natural precipitation, not the other way around.)
Since most rain sensors can save between three and 15 percent of a system’s annual operating expenses, they generally pay for themselves in less than one season. In fact, these devices are so effective that, in several areas of the country, they are required on all new irrigation systems.
H20 has been at the heart of the human story since the very beginning, and this first segment illustrates why we as a species can no longer take water for granted.
Episode 2: Civilizations
The second episode reveals how our success as a species is intimately connected to our control of water.
However, with the establishment and growth of our various civilizations we have created a dangerous dependence on this precious resource.
Episode 3: Crisis
The final segment of this landmark series explores how Earth’s changing water cycle is reshaping everything. Water is being mined faster than it can be replaced, as the global agricultural industry converts the planet’s precious reserves into profit.
This episode also examines the deep roots that connect water security with various conflicts around the world. If we want to understand why our world is changing, we need only follow the water.
The easiest way to sequester carbon is through photosynthesis. So the more plants, trees and grass, the more carbon is removed from the air — and the more oxygen is produced. In addition, proper landscaping – with trees that provide both windbreaks and shade — saves energy by keeping homes warm in winter and cool in summer.
According to Britt Wood, NALP CEO, many homeowners are unaware of the positive impact they can have simply by adding plants and trees to their landscape and maintaining a healthy lawn. To this end, smart irrigation systems can be a major component in an overall strategy to protect the planet. Not only does smart irrigation save precious water resources, but it helps ensure that residential landscapes remain strong and healthy, optimizing their carbon-sequestering capabilities.
A 2018 study by a University of Wisconsin scientist reveals that lawns may act as a secret weapon against climate change. In an analysis of soil samples Dr. Carly Ziter found that the typical American lawn is more effective at capturing carbon than natural, untouched ecosystems.
She is unsure why this is so, but speculates that it could be due to lawn care practices (e.g., mowing). However, Dr. Ziter emphasized that her study only compared the soil of lawns and natural environments, not the plants that may capture carbon aboveground.
Therefore, the effectiveness of carbon-capturing soil could potentially be offset by the carbon emissions required to maintain the lawns with gas-powered equipment.
You can remind your customers of the important role they play in combatting climate change by offering them a few helpful tips:
Add more trees and shrubs to sequester carbon, produce oxygen and filter the air.
Plant in the right spots to block prevailing winds and provide your home with energy-saving shade.
Select plants that are appropriate to your particular climate and location. Incorporate hydrozones in your landscape design to maximize irrigation efficiency.
Keep your lawn and plants healthy to capture more carbon and effectively filter storm water. Take advantage of smart irrigation technology – including weather stations with ET controllers, soil-moisture sensors, rain and wind sensors — to ensure optimal health for your residential landscape. Homeowners who are serious about changing their impact on the planet should explore these innovations to reduce water usage, save money, and preserve our precious resources.
Switch to Electric
The Electric Power Research Institute claims that replacing half of our gas-powered lawn mowers with electric models would have the same emissions-reducing effect as removing two million vehicles from the road.
So your customers may wish to consider switching to an electric-powered mower. Not only are electric mowers better for the planet, but they also are quieter, easier to maneuver, and less costly to maintain.
However, because they require either a cord or a limited-capacity battery, they work best on flatter, smaller yards (one-half acre or less). Large or challenging terrains with dips and slopes still require gas-powered mowers for optimal results.
But that may change. As consumers continue to demand greener alternatives, electric mower technology will no doubt evolve to include more powerful units with advanced capabilities.
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Landscape contractors, also, are increasingly switching over to all-electric commercial-grade equipment. They find that electric equipment is cheaper to maintain and saves on time and labor, because workers are no longer stopping to refuel. And there’s no learning curve.
In addition, landscapers who’ve made the switch report that their customers have responded very favorably to the quieter motors and environmental benefits that the electric fleets offer.
For additional resources regarding healthy landscapes and climate change, visit the NALP website.