Over half of the water we use in our region is applied outdoors and, historically, water use is highest in July because the days are the longest, the weather is the hottest and the plants are the thirstiest. Plants struggle in July. They need water and they’re depending on you.  This is the month to be smart about watering and spruce up your irrigation system.

In recognition of Smart Irrigation Month, Helix would like to offer some suggestions. Turn on each of your irrigation zones and observe how the irrigation system is performing. Look at where the water is being applied. While preforming this walk through, look for these common problems:

Overspray

Overspray is the result of a sprinkler applying water where it is not intended to go. Not only does overspray create a slipping hazard, it contributes to runoff (water on the sidewalk or in the street) and causes damage to hardscape, fences, and buildings.

To fix this, adjust the radius of your spray heads to make sure the water only goes where it is needed. This is easy to do. There is a screw on top of each spray head. Turn the screw clockwise while the spray head is on and watch the radius of the spray head decrease. Stop turning the screw when the spray is on the plants and off the hardscape. If you need to reduce the radius more than 25%, install a smaller radius spray head nozzle.

Blockage

Check to make sure the spray patterns of your sprinklers are not blocked. Vegetation blockage tends to overwater one plant while depriving others of water.

To fix this, trim back plants around the spray head or raise the spray head’s  body. If the irrigation zone is all shrubs, flowerbeds or trees, consider converting the entire zone to  a more efficient drip irrigation system. Consider a drip conversion kit which allows you to retrofit your existing sprinkler system. Most include filters and pressure regulation, which are critical for the long-term success of drip irrigation.

Mixed Sprinklers

Different sprinkler nozzles apply water at different rates. A traditional spray head, for example, may apply water at a rate of one gallon per minute, while a newer rotary nozzle will apply half that amount. And drip irrigation may apply water at a rate of one gallon per hour. Use these different sprinklers together in the same irrigation zone, for the same amount of time, and you will either over-water or under-water areas of your landscape.

To fix this, don’t mix different types of sprinklers — spray heads, rotary nozzles, rotors and drip — in the same irrigation zone. Are you wondering which sprinklers to keep and which to replace?  If you have old (really old) spray heads, you can save a lot of water by replacing them with rotary nozzles for turf and drip for plants.

Misting

Misting is the result of having too high of water pressure in your irrigation system. This fine mist is easily carried by the wind away from your plants, leaving them high and dry. High pressure increases water use, too, and it causes heavier wear on irrigation components, making them more likely to fail in the future.

To fix this, you can install a pressure regulator on the water line to your irrigation system or each of your irrigation valves, or you can install new sprinklers with built-in pressure regulators. Learn more in this Hunter Industries video.

These and many other problems are all commonly observed through our Home Water Use Evaluations at single-family homes and Irrigation Check-ups at commercial and multi-family properties — which Helix offers free to our customers.

To learn more about these services or to schedule your FREE Home Water Use Evaluation or Irrigation Check-up, call 619-667-6226 or email conserve@helixwater.org.

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