Homeowners use between 30 to 70 percent of their water outdoors. And, up to 50 percent of outdoor watering may be wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff from overwatering. You can reduce your water bill and save water by ensuring that your irrigation system is as efficient as it can be. This guide helps you understand how to water efficiently with your irrigation system.
Watering in Georgia
- In Georgia, outdoor watering is only allowed before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. for the purposes of planting, growing, managing or maintaining residential landscapes. If the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declares a drought response, watering restrictions may apply. Visit gadrought.org for more for more information.
- One inch of water a week is sufficient for all turf grasses grown in Georgia.
- If it rains, water less. North Georgia averages over 50 inches of rain per year. Homeowners with automated irrigation systems are most likely to over-water their landscapes.
- The Atlanta region features mainly clay soils that absorb water slowly. Clay can only absorb up to 1/2 inch of water per hour. Applying more than this quickly leads to puddling and water running off into the streets.
Water Saving Devices
- Rain sensors turn off the irrigation system during periods of rain. They are required on all new irrigation systems.
- Soil moisture monitors detect moisture levels at the root system and override scheduled irrigation if moisture is adequate.
- Smart irrigation controllers override scheduled irrigation when sufficient moisture is present as determined by soil moisture, rain, wind, slope, soil and plant type information. Some models can even adjust irrigation schedules based on weather forecasts using WiFi. WaterSense® labeled irrigation controllers meet efficiency and performance criteria without overwatering and generating excess runoff.
- Drip irrigation applies water slowly and directly to plant roots through small, flexible plastic tubing. Drip irrigation uses less water than traditional sprinkler irrigation and costs less to install. Consider converting planting beds from sprinkler systems to one of these systems.
- Apply water only at the first signs of moisture stress. Signs include wilting, foot-printing (blades don’t bounce back after walking across the lawn) or a dull discoloration.
- Hand watering small or isolated dry spots can extend the necessary time between watering the entire lawn. Water early in the morning and late at night when less water will be lost to evaporation.
- Use a rain gauge to measure weekly rain amounts.
How Much and When to Water
Test your system to see how long your sprinklers need to run to apply one inch of water.
- Place empty tuna cans (or similar) around your yard and run each zone in your system for 30 minutes
- Measure the amount of water in the cans with a ruler
- Determine how long your system would have to run to water 1 inch. For instance, if you measured 1/2 inch, it will take 1 hour to water 1 inch
Set your sprinkler timer to water one inch per week. Watering should be scheduled before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
- You may need to set your system on shorter, more frequent cycles to allow water to absorb and prevent puddling and runoff.
- Each sprinkler system applies water at different rates. There are two main types of sprinkler heads:
- Rotor sprinkler heads can apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water an hour and can usually run up to 20 minutes before runoff occurs. If your system applies 1/2 inch per hour, set your timer for six 20-minute cycles over the course of a week.
- Spray sprinkler heads can apply 1 to 2 inches of water per hour and can usually run 6 to 8 minutes before runoff occurs. If your system applies 2 inches per hour, set your timer for five 6-minute cycles over the course of a week. Observe how your yard is accepting the water and adjust your timer as needed.
Maintenance Guide for
Landscape Irrigation Systems
Maintaining an efficient irrigation system can reduce water consumption, save money, and keep your landscape healthy. By managing your system well, you could save around 8,800 gallons of water yearly, equal to 500 showers! Choose WaterSense labeled equipment for the best results in your lawn.
Uniform System Coverage
- Adjust sprinklers to have an on-target trajectory so only your lawn is watered and not the house, paved surfaces, sidewalk or street. Depending on where you live, actions such as these may be in violation of your jurisdiction’s Water Waste Policy.
- Make sure your sprinkler heads, when extended, rise above the height of the grass for uniform coverage. Use taller heads in flower and shrub beds. Check that sprinkler heads are not tilted or broken.
- If you notice extensive uneven sprinkler head sprays within a zone, this can be a result of pressure problems. Make sure all sprinkler heads in a zone spray evenly. If problems persist, have a licensed or certified landscape professional check the system’s design for water pressure and uniformity problems.
Annual System Check
Before running your system in the spring.
- Clean valve boxes and rain sensor of dirt and debris. Check to make sure the rain sensor is working properly.
- Inspect and clean filters. Filters are usually located near where the water exits the house. To clean out sediment, open the flush valve at the bottom of the filter and turn on the water for 1 minute (a). To clean the sediment screen, turn the water off, remove the filter body and spray with hose (b).
- Flush your system. Remove the last sprinkler head in each line and let the water run for a few minutes to flush out any dirt and debris. Replace the sprinkler heads and turn the system on, running one valve at a time.
- Check your timer and the battery. Make sure that your system runs for the scheduled amount of time. Set timer to comply with watering requirements. State law allows outdoor watering for residential purposes before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. If the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declares a drought response, watering restrictions may apply. Go to gadrought.org for more information.
Check your irrigation manual for details for your system.
- Check your system once a month. Observation is the key to water savings.
- Look for signs of under-watering or over-watering such as brown spots and areas that are greener or consistently wet and soggy. Adjust for uniformity.
- Check for blocked spray streams and check the position of the sprinklers. Adjust sprinkler heads that are tilted, blocked by grass and plants, or buried.
- Check the valves, sprinkler heads, nozzles and emitters for obvious problems such as clogged or misaligned heads, bubbling and misting. Replace those that are broken or cracked. Look for pinched or broken tubing and straighten or replace it.
- Cap sprinkler heads that are no longer needed in order to prevent system leakage.
- Periodically have your system audited by a licensed or certified landscape professional.
To properly winterize your watering system at the end of the season (usually around October), you should follow these steps:
- Turn off water supply at the main valve.
- Set the irrigation controller to the “rain” or “off” setting.
- Turn on each valve to release pressure from the pipes.
- Let the water drain out of the system or have it blown out by a professional to protect your system from freezing during the winter months.