How much water are you using to keep your landscape healthy? Is it the right amount?

The reality is that irrigation water can make up over 25% of your water use. If your region is in drought or you are considering ways to save water on your property, landscape water reductions represent an opportunity for significant savings. Yet most facilities managers don’t know how much water they’re using, or if they are using the right amount. It’s not surprising that most properties are using significantly more irrigation water than they need to.

There are several reasons why no one may be optimizing water use on a property, the main one being that no single person is directly responsible for doing so.

Have both green grass and save money Have both green grass and save money

Who’s Minding the Shop?

Facilities managers often see the bills, but without at least a separately metered irrigation system, they have trouble pinpointing what areas of their property are using the most water. It could be irrigation, but it could be a slab leak or inefficient toilets. For many property managers, this lack of information creates a bit of a black hole.

A landscaper is responsible for keeping a property looking good. While many landscapers are shifting towards a more water-conscious model, it’s understandably difficult for them to do so without support from property managers or owners. Also, in most cases, they don’t have the tools to track their water use, making it challenging to reduce consumption.

Through careful, intentional water management, Banyan Water has found that most properties can maintain their landscapes while reducing irrigation water use by 50-70%. For some properties this easily adds up to millions of gallons of water and tens of thousands of dollars per year. Property and facilities managers who recognize and address their irrigation water use stand to increase net operating income (NOI), decrease operating expenses, and conserve water.

Knowledge is Power

To decrease irrigation water use, the first step is understanding how much your property is currently using. There are a few options to figure this out:

          Do you already have a separately metered irrigation system? If so, start looking at that data to determine how many gallons that system is using each month.

          If you don’t have a separate meter or sub-meter for the irrigation system, compare your water use during summer months to a time when you’re not irrigating or irrigating very lightly. Most properties aren’t irrigating in the winter, so the difference between your summer and winter water bills will give you a good idea of the amount of water being dedicated to irrigation. If you think there might be some anomalies in your use over the past year, use multiple years of data to see what is “typical” for your property.

How Much is Too Much?

Once you know how much water you are using for irrigation, you need to determine if that is the right amount of water for your unique property. The EPA has developed a very helpful Water Budget Calculator that takes a number of factors into consideration and calculates the amount of water that you should be planning to use.

Through our work with clients, Banyan Water has found that with correctly managed smart irrigation most properties can even use a little less water than the tool indicates without sacrificing landscape health.

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Changing Weather & Changing Needs

Managing landscape health is both an art and a science. When it rains, you can certainly use less irrigation, but how much less depends on quite a few factors, including how much of that rain is likely to quickly evaporate.

It’s a good idea to have an irrigation system that measures and reacts to the weather conditions on your property. Rain in your city doesn’t always mean that it’s raining on your property, so you need a system that measures and tracks your property. Many modern irrigation systems come equipped with rain sensors or buckets. These devices track the amount of rain that falls on the property and suspends all watering for a given period after a rain storm. Actively managed systems, like Banyan Water’s actively managed smart irrigation systems, take even more complex factors such as humidity, wind, soil saturation, and temperature into consideration. These help put a finer point on determining when to water after rain and exactly how much water is needed.

Basic Steps to Reducing Irrigation Water Use

Regardless of which irrigation system you use, most properties can reduce irrigation water use starting now with these simple steps:

          Stop watering in the rain! This one is a quick win. Add a rain sensor to an existing irrigation system for a relatively small investment or assign someone to turn off the system any day that rain is expected.

          Inspect your system for leaks. A broken sprinkler head or leaking mainline can waste a lot of water and make the rest of your system less effective. Think about it: If the system is losing water before that water reaches an irrigation zone, then the reduced pressure may cause coverage issues.

          A monthly walk-through on your property can help to catch leaks before they’ve wasted too much water. A leak detection system helps with this issue as well.

          Look for dry spots. Dry spots in your landscape could indicate greater issues such as leaks in the system.

          Test your assumptions. If you think that your grass needs water every day (or every other day), it’s worth it to test to see if that belief is true. Try watering more deeply one day, then skipping your watering schedule for one or two days longer than usual. Go walk on the grass. If it pops back up after being stepped on, then it doesn’t need more water.

          Talk to your landscaper. Landscapers are professionals who care about the health of your property and your satisfaction with their work. If you tell them that you’re concerned about water use and are hoping to cut back, many will work with you and advise you on some areas where less water could be used. They may also help you to identify the information and tools that they need to help you decrease your water use.

          Upgrade your irrigation system. If you have the money to invest in a smart controller or a managed service, you may quickly save enough on your water bills to make up for that initial investment. Most of Banyan Water’s clients easily offset the cost of putting the system in place.

          Banyan Water’s actively managed smart irrigation solutions typically reduce irrigation water use by 50% – 70%, especially for large properties. If you think you could benefit from that kind of water savings, request a demo.

Cutting back on your irrigation water use can save you money and save water on your property. Invest a little time and effort into understanding, evaluating, and optimizing your system and you may be surprised how much of an impact it makes.

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