Water Conservation Tips

1. Use flow control devices:

Install valves with flow control that allow you to better manage the flow of your system and prevent run-off.

2. Use an automatic shut-off device on every system

Adding an automatic shut-off device can result in 15-20% in water savings. Install an automatic shut-off device like a rain sensor or moisture sensor on every system. These devices automatically shut-off the controller when it is raining or when sufficient soil moisture is reached. They prevent over-watering and the bad publicity that results from sprinklers running when it rains.

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Irrigation in Austin: Tips to Hire The Right Company

The Austin, Texas area is situated on the Colorado River. It has a semi arid climate, with hot summers, moderate springs, milder winter days and cold winter nights. The summers here are extremely hot; the temperature reaches an average low of 73 degree Fahrenheit and high of 90 degree Fahrenheit in July and August.

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Outdoor Lighting in The Austin Area

Outdoor lighting is all the rage in the Austin area. Almost all new homes being built include some type of outdoor lighting scheme. The purpose of outdoor lighting is two fold, beauty and security. In recent years, outdoor lighting has become very affordable. Gone are the days of heavy high voltage and expensive lights. Today’s lights feature low voltage bulbs and inexpensive installation.

Beauty: Outdoor lighting can make your landscaped areas come alive at night. Personally, I actually prefer a landscaped yard view with lighting during the evening hours. The cooler temperature and the abilty to dramatically highlight certain areas create a feel different from the day that is more satisfying.

Security: Outdoor lighting adds to the overall security of your home. Tall bushes around your home create natural hiding places for burglars. Having been in the security business myself for over 15 years I can tell you that creating a harder target is the name of the game. Burglars are lazy by nature and will simply go elsewhere.

Have a look at the American Lighting Association website at www.americanlightingassociation.com for info in their articles and press release section for some good info.

Using Smart Controllers to manage your Sprinkler in the Austin Area

Sprinkler Systems in the Austin area are subject to the ever changing weather patterns in the Austin area. “Smart Controllers” are controllers that automatically update the irrigation watering schedule to allow for changes in water needs throughout the year. So a smart controller will automatically reduce the watering times as the weather gets cooler and less water is needed. Then as the weather begins to warm up, the controller will add more watering time. The way this typically works is that you set the controller for a default maximum watering time, based on the hottest time of year. Then the controller reduces that time amount by a percentage value when less water is needed. There are several methods used by different controllers to determine how much to reduce the watering time. Some controllers may allow for use of more than one method. Here’s a list of the common methods used by smart controllers to determine the watering time:

Historical. Uses historical weather and water use data for the Austin area to determine what amount of water is required. Typically it only resets the time monthly. While the historic data is not perfect, it still gives significant water savings for most users. You will periodically need to manually override the automatic controller settings, especially if you have unusually hot weather for the month. To setup the controller on some models you simply enter your zip code and it accesses the historic data from it’s memory. On others you have to initially key in the historic data from the user’s manual or a website. Due to the lower cost of this type of smart controller, often it will give you the best financial return on your investment. This is especially true for a small residential irrigation system.

Historical with a sensor. Uses historical data from the Austin areato determine an initial reduction in watering time, but then further adjusts the time based on a sensor. Typically a temperature sensor is used. If the daily high temperature is higher than the historical data says is normal, it adds more time, if the temperature is lower, it reduces the watering time. This gives more accuracy that the historic data alone will.

Off-site data. Uses water and/or weather data provided by a remote provider. The controller uses a radio, Internet, or phone connection to obtain the data from either a central data provider, or from a local weather station. Generally there is a subscription charge for the data service and there may also be charges for the telephone, Internet, or radio link. Accuracy is dependent on where the data is obtained from (garbage in, garbage out). If the data comes from a nearby weather station it can be very accurate. If it comes from a central data base of historic data that is expertly manipulated for current conditions it can be very accurate also. So with this type of smart controller you need to ask the provider exactly where the data would come from for a controller installed at your location.

Weather station. This controller has it’s own weather station that you install with it. It uses real-time data from the weather station to adjust the watering times. It is very accurate if it uses a good weather station.

When to use your sprinkler in Austin

In the Austin area you should run your irrigation system during the morning hours, especially if you use sprinklers. Less water is lost to evaporation when the temperature is cooler, plus in most areas the wind doesn’t blow as hard in the mornings. Watering in the evenings can lead to turf and plant disease problems because the water sits on the plants all night, especially in humid climates like Austin. You should have your sprinkler system serviced at least once a year to eliminate broken heads or broken pipes and to insure that it is doing its job efficiently.

Sprinkler System Scheduling in Austin

Sprinkler system scheduling in the Austin area is simply a matter of close observation and dedication. Ideally, the sprinkler system control clock should be adjusted on at least a weekly basis to conform with current weather conditions, but even with monthly adjustments plants can be maintained healthy and happy.

The first basic sprinkler scheduling rule for drought-tolerant plants is never water if the soil is still wet. The old rule for landscape care was “if it doesn’t look right, water it”. This is often the worst possible thing to do. Plants wilt for any number of reasons other than needing water. Wilting for some perennials happens on hot afternoons no matter how much water they have.

Wilting in drought tolerant plants is often the first sign of too much water. (The roots die from too much water, then the plant wilts from lack of water uptake by the roots. Sort of ironic isn’t it?) Wilting can also be caused by any number of other diseases or even insect damage. Some drought tolerant plants fold their leaves on hot afternoons to conserve water, which can be mistaken for wilting. So never assume a plant needs to be watered because it looks wilted. Check to see if the soil is wet first.

A Quick Primer on Sprinkler Design

A sprinkler requires two things to operate- water flow and water pressure. When a sprinkler system design fails, it is almost always due to a lack of water pressure at the sprinklers. This is important because, if you are like 99% of the people reading this, you are thinking solely in terms of water flow. “How much water do I need (or have available) for my sprinkler system?” That’s an important question to ask, but it must go hand in hand with its sister question, “How much pressure will I have at the sprinkler?” The “at the sprinkler” part of that question is critical! Allow me to demonstrate by means of a simple, if not somewhat stupid, example:

Go get a sprinkler, any sprinkler will do fine, even one you put on the end of a hose. Now get a big bucket of water. 5 gallons is an ideal size. Now place the sprinkler on the ground (somewhere outside is strongly recommended) and pour the water into the sprinkler inlet. Did the sprinkler operate correctly? Did it water a good size area? NO? Why not? It had plenty of water. Ahh… but it didn’t have any water pressure! The water you poured into it didn’t have enough pressure to make the sprinkler operate.

Water pressure is the ENERGY that makes the sprinkler do its thing. Water pressure is like the gasoline for the car. Flow is like the distance the car travels. No gas, no travel. No water pressure, no water flow. (Yes, Ms. Ph.D. in hydraulics, that’s not a perfect analogy- but it works for most people.)

We understand that water requires pressure to push it through the pipes. It also stands to reason that just as a car uses up gas when it travels, the water also uses up the pressure as it flows! So from the moment the water starts flowing through the pipes of your water system, it is using up the pressure. We refer to that as “losing pressure” when designing. Some pressure is lost when the water goes through a water meter. It loses some more pressure as it moves through the various pipes in your yard and house. Squeezing through valves and/or a backflow preventer eats up more pressure. Everything the water encounters as it moves from the water source to the sprinkler uses up a small amount of the water pressure.

So here is the key to a good sprinkler system design: After the water gets through all those pipes and valves and reaches the sprinkler head, there still must be enough pressure left to make the sprinkler head operate correctly. If there isn’t, it’s just like the sprinkler you poured water onto in the example above. All the water in the world won’t make it work without pressure! By using the correct sizes of pipes, valves, etc. you can control how much pressure is lost in the irrigation system, and that, my friends, is what sprinkler system design is all about!

City of Austin Water Procedures

City of Austin (Austin Water Utility) http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/water/wwaverage/wwaverage.cfm

1. Go to website http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/water/wwaverage/wwaverage.cfm

2. Enter the Meter read date from your latest bill, this will determine your
billing cycle and your averaging dates

What if I don’t have my latest bill?

1. Login to you account online https://www.coautilities.com/

2. Click on the PAYMENT/BILL HISTORY TAB

3. Click on VIEW under Bill History. Use your latest bill ( first in the list.)

4. On the bill you will find the READ DATE.

5. Go back to the waste water averaging link and enter your date.

What if the internet and computers are not my thang?

1. Call the COA utilities customer care dept. (512) 494-9400

2. They will give you your billing cycle # ( a number from 1 to 20 )

3. Click on this link for a spreadsheet with all the dates http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/water/wwaverage/downloads/2011wwaschedule.pdf

Established Lawn Watering

The state of Texas contains many different soil types. Monitor your yard and garden watering to find what is suitable for plant growth. The following is a suggested watering schedule. Each yard is different, so monitor your garden.

Month No. of Times per week Duration Watering Start Time
January 1 per week 15-20 min. 9:00am
February 1-2 per week 15-20 min. 9:00am
March 1-2 per week 15-20 min. 8:00am
April 2-3 per week 15-20 min. 7:00am
May every other day 15-20 min. 6:00am
June every other day 15-20 min. 6:00am
July 3-4 per week 15-20 min. 6:00am
August 3-4 per week 15-20 min. 6:00am
September 3 per week 15-20 min. 8:00am
October 2-3 per week 15-20 min. 8:00am
November 1-2 per week 15-20 min. 9:00am
December 1 per week 15-20 min. 9:00am

** Triple the above times for rotary type sprinkler heads & drip zones.

** EXCEPTION: You must be in compliance with your city or counties water restrictions. Adjust your watering days and start times accordingly.

If you expect a severe freeze (temperatures below 32°F) water heavily to close air pocket and insulate around root systems, then turn off sprinkler.

NOTE:  Soil types, sun exposure and climatic conditions will vary from site to site. Please monitor your watering.

Watering Suggestions

  1. Lawn sprinkler systems do not water trees adequately. Trees should be deep watered by hose every five to seven days. Deep water trees by setting hose to trickle for 30 minutes.
  2. All new plants should be watered daily for the first 2 weeks.
  3. Do not water from 12:00pm to 5pm. This is the hottest part of the day. Also, avoid watering at night as this promotes fungus growth.
  4. Sprinklers should be set to start at 5:00am – 7:00am during summer and after 8am during winter.
  5. During winter months with early morning temperatures below 38°F, the freeze/rain sensor will prevent sprinklers from coming on. Start times should be later in the morning.
  6. During heavy rains, the freeze/rain sensor can prevent the sprinkler system from coming on for 2 – 3 days. During summer the rain/freeze sensor will need to be bypassed so new lawns can be watered.
    NOTE:  If new sod is not watered for 24 – 48 hours during warm and hot months the sod will be damaged or will die.
    Lack of watering or over watering will void warranties that may have been in place on any plants, trees or grass.
  7. Do not water the foliage. This may result is sun scald.
  8. Keep new sod wet for 10 days after installation.
  9. Water should deep soak the ground. Your plants need to establish deep root systems. Light watering keeps the top wet and does not encourage roots to grow deeper. Watering several times at one hour intervals will deep soak a planting bed.
  10. Allow root balls to dry between each watering as this will prevent root rot and will draw oxygen into the soil. However, never allow a root ball to dry out completely.
  11. Over Watering: If a plant starts to look poorly and you have been watering on a regular schedule, wait 24 hours after a watering and lift the affected plant and observe the bottom of the hole. If there is water standing in the hole discontinue watering.

NOTE:  Soil conditions throughout Texas vary so watering needs will also vary. These are recommendations only. Please consult your local nurseryman for your specific soil type.

Information and Terms

PRESSURE

The water pressure in the Austin area is low. If a sprinkler system is not designed properly it will not work. This is a major problem and one our repair crews encounter often. There are several factors that go into designing the system. The foremost factor is the number of gallons that each zone is designed to flow. From there the size of pipe, valves, and pressure vacuum breaker must be determined. A good rule of thumb for a standard 5/8″ water meter is 12 gallons of water per minute. If your irrigator doesn’t know how many gallons each zone is designed for then he isn’t qualified to do the work.

ZONES

When watering your yard by hand you know that some areas need to be watered longer and more often than other areas. When a sprinkler system is designed these areas are called zones. Each zone should have a valve that controls the heads in that area allowing each area to be set for an appropriate watering schedule. The first item to consider in establishing a zone is to keep the grass and flower beds separate. The next is never mix rotating heads and fixed sprays. Other factors are the type of plant material in the zone and amount of sun, shade, and drainage patterns.

IRRIGATION EFFICIENCY

Water is the planet’s most valuable resource. It seems every summer in Austin we have to have water rationing in some of our neighborhoods. Sometimes the lack of water becomes critical and all outside watering by hand is stopped. However, many times people with sprinkler systems are allowed to continue to water. This is because a well designed system is much less wasteful than hand watering. The system to have maximum efficiency must have been designed with water conservation in mind. The heads should be spaced in a square pattern with one spray head spraying into another. They should have matched precipitation heads meaning that the same amount of water will be dispersed over equal distances.

Finally, the irrigator should program the controller for the correct run time for each zone and set the daily schedule according to the plant type, soil, and sun.