Water is part of everything we do, especially during the summertime.
Whether we use it to bathe, garden or to enjoy recreationally, water encompasses our day-to-day tasks. Because we need water to do so many different things, like irrigate our gardens and lawns, water bills can become extra costly during the summer months.
Nationally, July is when people use the most amount of water during the year, which is why July is Smart Irrigation Month. This initiative is sponsored by the Irrigation Association and promotes efficient irrigation technologies. Whether you keep a small garden in your backyard or farm thousands of acres of crops, everyone can benefit from learning about the social, economic and environmental benefits of smart irrigation.
There are tons of different ways to implement smart irrigation techniques, which can sometimes be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are tips that you can implement today to get you started with smart irrigation, along with more wholistic approaches to reconfigure how you irrigate your lawns and gardens. Here are some suggestions provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Take Care of Texas, that will help you keep a healthy landscape while saving water and money.
There are four key steps to watering Texan landscapes efficiently:
- Design your landscape to benefit yourself and the environment. Planning on building or expanding your landscape? Creating a healthy, low-maintenance landscape starts with a well-planned design. Start by sketching out your yard, including pre-existing structures, trees, plants, slopes and grass areas. Consider your landscaping goals when sketching and designing your landscape. What are the limitations that you must consider, like budgets? What do you want your landscape to look like and what is its’ function? What will the maintenance look like? What irrigation system should you use? Consider including buffer zones of turfgrass, as this will help absorb runoff from buildings and patios and will reduce runoff into driveways. Include lawn edging and hard surfaces between turf and other landscape features to reduce the need for trimming and herbicides. If you want plants that have similar watering needs, group them together to prevent overwatering and excessive plant growth. For more helpful tips regarding Texas landscape design, click here.
- Choose plants that can adapt to the conditions in your area. Using native and well-adapted plants help keep your yard environmentally sound. Native plants will use less water, reduce the need for soil modification, require little to no fertilizer and be more tolerant of stressful conditions. Along with native plants, try planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house and around your air conditioner. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter, allowing you to save energy by keeping your home shady in the summer and allowing the sun to shine through windows during the winter. To help identify native and adaptive plants for your area, click here.
- Measure the amount of water needed to irrigate your landscape. Most of the time, water that is applied to lawns and gardens never get fully absorbed by the plants or grass. Applying water too rapidly causes runoff, watering in the middle of the day causes evaporation loss and excessive irrigation increases the chance of runoff and groundwater pollution. Generally, most lawns need only one inch of water a week. If you want a more exact estimate, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has an online calculator to help people apply, within a 10th of an inch, the amount of water their turfgrass needs. You can plug in specific weather information for your area, your type of grass, the amount of sunlight it gets and other factors before determining the exact amount of water needed to sustain your lawn. You can find the calculator here. Once you get the recommended watering amount, the next step is to determine your sprinkler’s watering rate. An easy way to measure your system’s watering rate is to place a few empty, 6-ounce tuna cans around your lawn. When the cans each hold 1 inch of water, you have applied enough water. If you start to notice runoff before the cans contain 1 inch, turn off the water and wait for an hour to allow the grass to absorb the water before you start watering again.
- Use the right tools and methods to deliver the optimal amount of water. To help water your lawn properly, do so before 10 a.m. and apply one inch of water to the lawn as quickly as possible while avoiding runoff. While many people use spray sprinkler systems that dispense water into the air to spread over a wide area, you can effectively water your lawn by using drip irrigation systems. Drip irrigation systems allow water to be released slowly at specific sites and spray large drops close to the ground. Connecting a drip irrigation system to a timer allows you to regulate how much water your plants and lawn get. If you already have an irrigation system, check it for leaks. Make sure there is a good seal where the hose connects to your home’s water supply. Ensure that your sprinkler heads are pointing in the right direction to put water where you want it, not on the street or driveway.
If you design and install your own permanent landscape irrigation system, it must meet the required state and local design standards and requirements. To review the irrigation rules for Texas, click here. For local regulations, contact your water utility.
Together, we can conserve Texas water by continuing to learn about smart irrigation and how to efficiently water our landscapes. For more information about Smart Irrigation Month, click here.