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A Not-So-Difficult Irrigation Audit Guide

Watering is essential for any natural lawn. Whether using sprinklers, relying on rainfall, or employing other irrigation methods, monitoring your lawn’s water intake is crucial for both environmental conservation…and even reducing water bills!

The article below explores how to conduct an irrigation audit and make necessary adjustments to ensure your lawn receives the right amount of water efficiently, thus saving resources and money.

How to Do a Yard Irrigation Audit

Step 1: Gather the Right Tools

You’ll need some basic tools that are both effective and economical. Collect various containers like empty tuna cans, the bottoms of plastic water bottles or soda cans. These can easily capture water without any need for expensive equipment.

You can also check with your local extension agency for plastic cups upon request. It’s important to use the same type of containers throughout your lawn to ensure consistency in your measurements. Ensure you have enough containers to cover various points within the reach of each sprinkler across all irrigation zones of your yard.

What is a zone?

An irrigation zone in your lawn is a specific area watered by a designated set of sprinklers, controlled independently from other areas. Each zone addresses unique watering needs based on plant types, sun exposure and soil conditions, allowing for efficient water management and healthier lawn growth.

How many irrigation zones are in my yard?

The amount of irrigation zones are determined by each irrigation system and how many square feet each irrigation head covers. Most irrigation systems come sprinkler heads that cover 6–9 zones.

Step 2: Place the Cups in the Proper Zones

The next step is figuring out how much water your sprinklers are delivering. Just place cups in each zone to catch the water during a normal irrigation cycle. Once they’re set, turn on your sprinkler system for its usual run time.

Water Audit Sprinkler Catch Cups

How do I locate each zone in my yard?

Check any system documentation or diagrams from when your irrigation system was installed; these often show where each zone’s valves are located. Additionally, you can observe the order in which the sprinklers activate. When you turn on a specific zone, the sprinklers that pressurize first are typically closest to that zone’s irrigation valve.

Step 3: Measure the Results

After each zone finishes running, check the water in your cups to make sure the amounts are similar. Record the results and proceed to the next zone until you’ve covered the whole lawn.

You’re aiming for a consistent half-inch of water in the lawn of each zone, which adds up to the ideal 1 inch per week—split into two watering sessions. There are some exceptions—shaded regions may need less water than those exposed to full sun to keep disease outbreaks at bay.

Pro Tip

Over-watering can cause diseases in your lawn. Consider turning off your irrigation during rainy seasons and winter, and watch for signs of thirst in your grass, such as leaves folding inward.

Remember, typical lawns use two kinds of irrigation heads: rotating rotors for large areas and stationary sprays for smaller spots. Since these heads deliver water at different rates, it’s crucial to set them to run for the right amount of time. Also, ensure all heads in a zone are the same type, as mixing sprays and rotors in one zone can lead to uneven watering.

Step 4: Make Adjustments

If your zone is getting too little water…

Now you’re ready to adjust your irrigation to get the right amount of water to each zone. If a zone needs more water, you can either:

1) Install larger nozzles or extend the watering time—assuming this doesn’t conflict with any HOA rules. Or…

2) Extend the run time, wich is the simplest and cheapest solution. If you can’t increase the time, then switching to larger nozzles is your next best option.

If your zone is getting too much water…

On the other hand, if a zone is getting too much water, reduce the run time or switch to smaller nozzles.

Efficient water use is essential in our changing climate. By performing a yard irrigation audit as described, you can optimize your lawn’s water needs. This not only promotes a healthier lawn but also conserves resources and reduces your water bills.

Remember, every drop counts. Adjusting irrigation to the needs of different zones minimizes wastage and exemplifies sustainable practices. Keep your lawn vibrant and cost-effective by following these guidelines.

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