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How to ensure your sprinkler system isn't wasting water

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As we head into August, some of you will rely on your sprinklers to keep your lawns green. Many local water departments offer free services to inspect inground irrigation systems. It can help water customers save money by pinpointing areas where water may be wasted.

EFFICIENCY INSPECTIONS

On a recent hot summer day, Jimmy Burgdorf with the city of Fort Worth fires up a residential sprinkler system. He checks the water meter before turning on the sprinklers to observe how the system is performing.

“It looks like we might have a possible little leak over here,” Burgdorf pointed to a sprinkler head near the sidewalk.

Inspections, like this one, are part of a sprinkler system evaluation offered to Fort Worth water customers for free every three years. The city said it connects water customers to a licensed irrigation inspector to track down leaks, misdirected sprinklers, and even outdated watering settings.

“When the new homeowner takes over or after the new sod is gone in and it's still watering that same amount and they don't know it,” explained Burgdorf.

After the evaluation is complete, Burgdorf said each inspector shares suggested improvements that would cut water use.

“They'll give you recommendations and suggestions and a proper watering schedule that'll best fit your landscape in your house,” said Burgdorf.

Though an inspector may be able to identify a potential leak and what zone it’s in, Burgdorf explained the inspectors can not dig into a customer’s lawn to fix a problem. The inspector would refer the customer to a contractor for some repairs.

EVALUATIONS BY THE SEASON

According to the EPA, during hot summer months, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 70% of its total usage and single broken sprinkler head can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water over six months.

“This is the time of year that we often get the most phone calls usually related to high bills. This is actually the time where most of our conservation programs rev up in activity,” said Kelsey Kosik, a conservation specialist with the Fort Worth Water Department.

“If you have an automatic in-ground irrigation system, usually for a household, that's going to be your greatest potential for water waste,” said Dallas Water Conservation Manager Alicia Lee.

For water customers in Dallas, irrigation system evaluations are also offered for free once a year.

“There's no wrong time, that's for sure,” said Will Bosland, an irrigation service agent in Dallas. “Really, the best time is in spring before you start really relying on that system to get you through the heat of the summer.”

Each inspection takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the system.

Across North Texas, water customers may be eligible for rebates or services all aiming to conserve water.

Plano, for example, offers up to a $75 rebate for installing a rain/freeze sensor.

In Southlake, water customers who agree to free sprinkler evaluation may get a rebate for making improvements.

“We just want to promote saving water, using your system more efficiently and just educate a lot of people,” Burgdorf said.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

You can read the “Newcomers Guide to Gardening in North Texas”. It offers tips to evaluate how much water your lawn and garden actually need along with information about the cycle and soak method – a way to avoid watering faster than the ground can absorb the moisture. On page 12, it recommends watering in short cycles instead of one long cycle.

You can search for drought-resistant plant ideas in this database. You can search for planting ideas based on a number of criteria, including water requirements, bloom color and wildlife benefit.

You can read the EPA’s checklist for evaluating your own outdoor watering system here.

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