Saving water with sprinklers

REDDING, Calif. - As this drought persists it will be more and more important for everyone to conserve as much water as possible.  And one area where a huge amount of water is wasted is our lawns and gardens.

According to the Center for Irrigation Technology based out of California State University in Fresno, a very good sprinkler will peak at 75 percent efficiency.  That means three-fourths of the water sprayed will actually get to the ground to water the plants.  And that's at the most efficient end of the spectrum.

Other sprinklers could be wasting as much as 35 to 40 percent of the water sprayed out of them, a number which could go higher depending on the weather. 

Evaporation rates rise and therefore sprinkler efficiency drops when the relative humidity drops and the winds rise.

Dave Masotti works at Ace Hardware and he said that a big source of wasted water is the runoff from sprinkler systems.

"A lot of people have their sprinklers on too long at a time," said Masotti. "They'll have them on for 30 minutes and you have a lot of runoff."

He recommended changing that to nearer to five minutes twice or three times a day to maximize the water use.

He also said using traditional sprinklers for shrubs, gardens and trees is wasteful.  The best way to get water directly to the plants is with a drip irrigation system.

Those systems will produce less water but will deliver that water directly where it is needed and will waste much less water.

"The drip system you're running anywhere from two gallons per hour for a drip emitter, up to 15 gallons per hour," Masotti said. "But it's putting the water directly to the plants base."

Drip systems are great for gardens but are too localized for lawn use.  Those still need sprinklers.

Masotti also said it is important to keep your sprinkler system maintained.  A broken or leaking sprinkler can go rogue, spraying water in unwanted directions and wasting water.

For those looking to improve their current system or install a new one Masotti said it is very easy to do.  The most difficult part would be planning everything out and digging trenches for the pipes to be laid.  But he said it can probably all be done over the course of a weekend.

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