Are You Watering in the Rain, Again?

It’s inevitable – it’s either raining out, or it’s the first dry day after a three-day rain event, or rain is obviously imminent – and someone has their sprinkler system running.

Sprinklers in the wind.

Sprinklers in the wind.

We’ve all seen it. As a water conservation specialist, you can only imagine the thoughts that run through my head….

To keep my sanity, I have to assume that most people are unaware when their sprinkler system starts running full-blast in a rain storm. They probably aren’t even in the area when it happens. My educated guess is that most of these “offending” systems are set-up with old-fashioned timers, which are set to go off at the same time every week, regardless of weather.

It’s obvious that running an irrigation system in the rain is a wasteful use of resources, and overwatering a lawn causes multiple problems, such as a shallow root system, which is more prone to damage from heat stress; abundant weed growth and disease infestation; and the need to mow more often. Personally, I consider watering a lawn to be slightly decadent, especially when you consider that most residential irrigation systems are using clean drinking water – the same stuff that comes out of a kitchen faucet (just imagine the view-point of someone from a drought-stricken part of our planet).

Nevertheless, lawn irrigation is routine for a lot of homeowners in our area, and many don’t think twice about using abundant amounts of water on their turf. Some folks think that they need to set their sprinkler system just once in the spring and forget about it, but what really determines if grass needs water is how dry the soil is. Over the past few years, technology has finally connected with Mother Nature, and “smart watering” irrigation controllers have emerged. This upgraded technology depends on moisture and soil sensors, and runs irrigation systems only when really needed, taking the guesswork out of lawn irrigation – and conserving our water.

WaterSense-labeled irrigation controllers, which are third-party-tested, are an excellent choice for water efficiency and performance. WaterSense controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health. (fyi: WaterSense is to water appliances what Energy Star is to electrical.)

As the summer approaches, and our landscape heats up, there often is talk of drought and water conservation. Using a precious resource like water needs to be taken seriously. If you are going to irrigate, at least be smart about it and use upgraded controllers – and don’t water in the rain.

Nancy Fyler, Water Conservation Coordinator, June 5, 2013

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