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  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Dominic Ross, a Rain Bird contractor, replaces an old sprinkler nozzle – a quick water-saver. "Twist the old nozzle out, then drop the new one in. It's that simple," he said

  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Rain Bird's subsurface drip line emitter

  • The copper element in Rain Bird's subsurface drip line

  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    A Rotary Variable Arc Nozzle by Rain Bird (with yellow cap) is put on an existing sprinkler. Voilà – water saved.

Efficient sprinklers can help Sacramento gardeners save

Published: Friday, May. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 10:28 am

Dominic DeRoss saw the proof in his own front yard.

"I finally started practicing what I was preaching," said the longtime landscaper.

DeRoss converted a Sacramento home he owns to water-efficient irrigation. He remade the landscape, too.

The yard now features a water-wise Mediterranean garden with all subsurface drip irrigation. In the backyard, a patch of green lawn for kids and dogs gets sprayed by efficient rotary nozzles. A weather station monitors moisture, wind and temperature to send information to the controller that doles out just the right amount of water.

"This front yard used to look like everything else – just grass," said DeRoss, who now works for Rain Bird, helping other people do retrofits. "Now, it's very cost-effective, too. Lawn is the most expensive landscaping to maintain."

Money and drought have helped push more homeowners to be water smart. Next weekend, two tours spotlight such awareness.

"Absolutely. People are converting (their gardens) to save water," said landscape designer Cheryl Buckwalter, who helped put together Roseville's Greener Gardens Tour and DIY Expo, one of the events. "Saving money is part of it. But people also realize we're in a cycle of drought and having a more water-efficient landscape makes sense. It's really, really catching on."

"We want to develop a paradigm shift away from lawn-based landscapes," added Wayne Blanchard, who orchestrated the city of Woodland's Water-Wise Landscapes tour, the other event. "We're giving people specific local examples that show it's not that hard. You don't lose beauty with less water; you actually enhance it."

Both events offer information on how these landscapes were converted as well as tips on local rebate programs.

But saving water can start as simply as swapping out old sprinklers.

"Efficient sprinklers can play a major role in reducing outdoor water waste," said Amy Talbot of the Regional Water Authority.

"By adjusting sprinklers to avoid overspray and runoff, for example, residents can save more than 40 gallons every time they water. Quickly repairing leaks and broken sprinkler heads can save more than 20 gallons of water per day, per leak."

In Sacramento, more than 65 percent of annual household water consumption goes to landscaping. But an estimated 30 percent of that is lost to overwatering or evaporation.

All that wasted water adds up. Consider that the typical residential lawn uses 10,000 gallons a year.

"You can save a lot of water if you put your mind to it," said Dave Johnson, Rain Bird's national director of corporate marketing. "Most people overwater 40 to 50 percent."

New, easy-to-install, easy-to-use products as well as local rebate programs have piqued people's interest in "smart" irrigation.

Rotary nozzles aim water where it's needed with little evaporation. Drip irrigation delivers water – slowly and directly – to plant roots. Rain sensors and weather-wise controllers take the guesswork out of irrigation planning.

"We have seen a large amount of interest in water-efficient irrigation this spring," said Mike Dailey, irrigation expert at Green Acres Nursery & Supply's Roseville store. "Homeowners have been able to streamline their irrigation systems while taking less of a hit to the wallet."

Dailey has his favorite innovations, in particular Hunter Solar Sync and Irritrol Climate Logic smart controllers.

"We are big fans of new weather stations that are designed to make seasonal adjustments automatically without any input from the homeowner," he said.

"The Hunter MP Rotar nozzle series is a big hit as well. It's very easy to retrofit an existing system over to MPs; once installed, they can reduce water use as much as 30 percent."

Rain Bird's rotary nozzles also make a huge difference with little effort.

"All you're doing is replacing the nozzle component – that little part the pops up," DeRoss said, demonstrating the operation. "Twist the old nozzle out, then drop the new one in. It's that simple."

Run times on rotary sprinklers need to be a little longer, he noted.

"But you're still saving a lot of water. There's no misting; that means less loss to evaporation. The droplets are heavier and they go where you want them to go."

Several nurseries and home improvement stores host irrigation workshops or give demonstrations during special events. For example, Green Acres will demonstrate irrigation retrofits and answer questions June 2 at the Greener Gardens Tour and DIY Expo.

"We try to give people practical advice that allows their system to work at peak efficiency," said Dailey.

Just tuning up the equipment you already have will help save water, he said.

Dailey encourages homeowners to think of a healthy irrigation system as a body with heart, brain and circulation.

With that in mind, he offered this basic pre-summer checklist for sprinkler systems:

• "Check your valves to make sure that the 'heart' of your system is running properly. Check the diaphragms and the solenoid and make sure there are no leaks.

• "Run a system check on your irrigation timer to make sure that the 'brain' of your system is programmed to fit the season you are in. Make any seasonal adjustments and make sure there are no electrical shorts.

• "Replace any heads, nozzles or drip emitters as necessary to ensure the 'vascular' portion of your system is working smoothly. Look out for spitting nozzles or clogged drip emitters."

Just paying attention to your garden and its irrigation will save water – and money. Phase in efficient sprinkler heads or other updates with needed repairs.

Local water districts recently launched a campaign to encourage consumers to give their sprinklers a monthly checkup. Troubleshooting tips (including how-to videos of common symptoms and solutions) can be found at BeWaterSmart.info.

"Right now, take a quick walk around your yard," Rain Bird's Johnson said. "Notice any trouble spots: A broken nozzle, leaking valves, water coming up from the ground (that could indicate a leaky pipe or connection). Look for things that might be broken and fix those first."


SEE WATER-WISE GARDENS, MEET EXPERTS

The way to save the most water? Convert your landscape to plants that need less irrigation. Two upcoming tours put the focus on water-wise gardens with experts on hand to answer botanical and irrigation questions.

WOODLAND WATER-WISE LANDSCAPES

What: 16 water-wise gardens on a self-guided tour, plus demonstrations

and irrigation experts

Where: Start at the Woodland Senior and Community Center, 2001 East St., Woodland

When: Pre-tour registration 8:30-10 a.m. next Saturday; tour, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. next Saturday

Admission: Free

Details: http://woodlandwaterwiselandscapetour.blogspot.com

Highlights: Presented by the city of Woodland's Water Conservation Program, this tour features a wide variety of home landscapes with one big thing in common: less lawn.


ROSEVILLE GREENER GARDENS TOUR & DIY EXPO

What: Self-guided driving tour and demonstrations

Where: Start at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center (Mahany Park), 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 2

Admission: $5 per family

Details: Call for registration, (916) 746-1550; www.roseville.ca.us/explore

Highlights: Modeled after Elk Grove's Greener Gardens tour, this event highlights Cash for Grass graduates – homeowners who took advantage of rebates for lawn conversion. Also take part in a demonstration-packed expo for do-it-yourselfers interested in retrofitting their irrigation systems or retooling their landscapes to reduce water use. Expo includes a plant sale, garden and irrigation exhibitors.


Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Debbie Arrington



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