Saving water is as easy as adjusting the sprinklers

Saving water on your lawn
Posted at 3:56 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 17:56:24-04

There's lots of ways to conserve water — some people go to the extreme of getting rid of grass but many turn to drip irrigation systems instead.

A drip irrigation delivers the proper amount of water with minimal waste and requires a fraction of the water needed by the typical lawn. Considering the drought Idaho is facing, it may be time for a new way of thinking about water use.

Tim Anderson of Living Waters Sprinkler and Landscape said he's worried about what people don't know when it comes to caring for their lawn in the drought.

"If things keep going they way they're going and people aren't controlling their irrigation system right," said Anderson. "We're going to have a problem."

Anderson installs sprinklers and drip lines and he's seen all sorts of waste. He said among the worst is all the sod used in new construction, which needs to be kept wet — but only for a week or so.

"A homeowner will buy a house and they've got watering system set up for four times a day for new sod," he said. "But when we go back in to check sprinklers 5 months later or shut them down at the end of the year and blowout their system, we find they're still watering four times a day."

Anderson said if you think over-watering can't be bad for thirsty lawns, think again. He said shallow roots make for weak lawns that turn brown at the first hint of drought. Deep watering a couple times a week with proper fertilizer is way better, he says.

"Then when the drought comes those roots are way down in the ground and getting water still. They're not sitting on top and your grass is dying," said Anderson.

If home owners don't learn to use less water, the Treasure Valley could run out at the end of the summer. Then lawns will look awful, fewer crops will mean rising food costs — and maybe most important — fun at Lucky Peak and other reservoirs goes literally down the drain.

"The question I get all the time is, 'Greg, how long are we going to keep Lake Lowell open to recreation?'" said Greg Curtis with Nampa Irrigation District. "I don't make the rules there, but if we don't start conserving, they're going to shut down much sooner."

Some older homes use sprinklers to water everything, including shrubs and flower gardens. But each sprinkler head uses a gallon a minute — drip lines use a gallon an hour. S

"I'd say 100% of landscapers are using drip lines in flower beds now," said Anderson.

An adapter can easily be fitted to a sprinkler head. Converting to drip lines around flower beds and shrubs will use less water, and there won't be a reason to worry about siding soaking up water from inaccurate sprinkler heads.

Finally, Anderson said there's no need to water the lawn more than once a week right now. He said the region is getting plenty of rain. With cooler temperatures, the grass is green even at houses that haven't turned on their sprinklers.

Anderson said if everyone waited for hotter, drier weather to turn on their sprinklers, Idaho would save a huge amount of water in just a few weeks.