Sav­ing wa­ter: 5 steps to smarter ir­ri­gat­ing

The Progress-Index - At Home - - Front Page - DEAN FOS­DICK

Smart ir­ri­ga­tion is be­com­ing a hot land­scap­ing spe­cialty as ground­wa­ter aquifers are in­creas­ingly sucked dry.

Thirsty lawns, en­ergy pro­duc­tion, and ex­pand­ing “wet” in­dus­tries like hy­draulic frac­ture min­ing and farm ir­ri­ga­tion are vy­ing for wa­ter re­sources, lead­ing to tougher wa­ter­ing re­stric­tions and higher prices.

“The EPA is mov­ing from en­cour­age­ment to en­force­ment on the mu­nic­i­pal, com­mer­cial level,” said Jeff Gib­son, land­scape busi­ness man­ager for Ball Hor­ti­cul­tural Co. in West Chicago, Ill. “Many new mu­nic­i­pal or­di­nances in the coun­try dic­tate the types of ‘heads’ (low pres­sure, low vol­ume sprin­klers, typ­i­cally) that may be used with new in­stal­la­tions.”

Nu­mer­ous states and some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties also are start­ing to of­fer tax in­cen­tives for in­stalling low-wa­ter-use ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, Gib­son said.

Wa­ter short­ages al­ready im­pact ev­ery con­ti­nent, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions Depart­ment of Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs. “Around 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple, or al­most one-fifth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, live in ar­eas of phys­i­cal scarcity, and 500 mil­lion peo­ple are ap­proach­ing this sit­u­a­tion.”

De­pleted wa­ter sup­plies are both a nat­u­ral and hu­man-made phe­nom­e­non, the agency says. “There is enough fresh­wa­ter on the planet for six bil­lion peo­ple but it is dis­trib­uted un­evenly and too much of it is wasted, pol­luted or un­sus­tain­ably man­aged.”

Planet, the national land­scape in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion, lists five strate­gies for smarter wa­ter­ing:

— Mak­ing your soil health­ier. Break up and amend the soil 12 to 18 inches deep so plant roots can pen­e­trate deeper. “The most im­por­tant thing in land­scap­ing is soil prepa­ra­tion and choos­ing plants suited to the mi­cro-cli­mate where they’re go­ing,” said Kurt Bland, a Planet spokesman and pres­i­dent of Bland Land­scap­ing Co. in Apex, N.C.

— Group­ing plants with s i mil a r wa­ter needs to­gether. “Do­ing so will cre­ate less stress on the plants, which will help keep

them dis­ease-free un­der low wa­ter con­di­tions,” the trade as­so­ci­a­tion says.

— Choos­ing the right grasses for lawns. “Turf grass is in­cred­i­bly re­silient and ge­net­i­cally geared to go dor­mant in drought con­di­tions,” a Planet hand­out says. “Ask a pro­fes­sional for what drought tol­er­ant species will do well in your lawn based on sun ex­po­sure and soil type.”

— Cre­at­ing an ir­ri­ga­tion plan that in­cludes re­claimed wa­ter and low-con­sump­tion drip sys­tems. “Drip ir­ri­ga­tion, while sav­ing wa­ter, can in­crease veg­etable yields and plant growth,” said Robert Kourik, author of “Drip Ir­ri­ga­tion for Ev­ery Land­scape and All Cli­mates” (Meta­mor­phic Press, 2009.) “The im­proper use of ir­ri­ga­tion cre­ates a too-wet and too-dry cy­cle. This adds more stress to the roots and less-thanideal growth. Drip ir­ri­ga­tion pro­motes the best growth pos­si­ble.”

— Mulching, which re­tains mois­ture, smoth­ers weeds and adds nu­tri­ents to the soil.

“Wa­ter rates as they in­crease are get­ting peo­ple’s at­ten­tion,” Bland said. “Or­di­nances re­quir­ing mon­i­tors lim­it­ing how much wa­ter can be used also seem to be work­ing.”


A land­scape pro­fes­sional checks for wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion uni­for­mity and makes sure the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are in­stalled and main­tained prop­erly.

A woman wa­ters her plants at a pri­vate res­i­dence in Dunn Lor­ing, Va. Place plants in the right lo­ca­tion for sun or shade. Do­ing so will cre­ate less stress on the plants, which will help to keep them dis­ease-free and less stressed un­der low wa­ter...

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