Urban Irrigation

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Homeowners are smart irrigators, too!

While agriculture is the number one industry in Georgia and relies on irrigation for production of our food, fiber, and fuel, Smart Irrigation extends beyond the farm. Atlanta is the third fastest growing city in the country, and as urban areas across the state continue to grow outdoor water use in our cities is an important part of Smart Irrigation.

“Reducing outdoor water use is a critical piece of our region’s water conservation efforts,” says Metro Water District Governing Board Chair Charlotte Nash. “Steps that encourage outdoor water conservation have helped the Atlanta region reduce water use by more than 10 percent since 2000, even as our population has increased by more than one million. A clean, abundant water supply is vital to the continued prosperity of the Atlanta region and our state.”

Below are some ways urban homeowners can also implement Smart Irrigation practices.


Lawn & Garden Irrigation Options


There are several irrigation options to consider

Various irrigation systems put out different rates of water, and proper landscape planning will enable you to make the best decision on irrigation systems for your landscape based on plants and their water use.

Rotor sprinkler heads use rotating streams of water to apply water to a typically larger area. They can apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water and hour.

Spray sprinkler heads have a higher application rate than other sprinkler heads, meaning they put out a lot of water fast. They can apply 1 to 2 inches of water per hour and are best for medium to large lawns.

Drip irrigation applies water slowly and directly to plant roots through small, flexible plastic tubing. Drip irrigation uses less water than a traditional irrigation systems, typically 30-50% less, are more efficient, and cost less to install. Drip irrigation is best used in plant beds.

Consider including a rain barrel in your irrigation plan. Rain barrels are tanks used to store rainwater typically collected from a roof surface by pipes. Collecting rainwater and connecting your rain barrel to a hose or drip irrigation system recycles rainwater that would otherwise be runoff entering storm drains and streams.

Even without a permanently installed irrigation system, there are still things to consider to be a Smart Irrigator. Only irrigate your lawn or garden between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to prevent evaporation, and watch how much your watering. The typical clay soils of the Atlanta region can only absorb up to 1/2 inch of water per hour, and watering more than this can cause run off. Lastly, water only when you observe signs of moisture stress.


Lawn & Garden Irrigation Technologies


Technology allows us to use water more EFFICIENTLY

And luckily it’s available to more than just the farmer. Home irrigation systems can leverage many of the same tools farmers use to make Smart Irrigation decisions.

Rain Sensors, which are required on all newly installed irrigation systems, will turn off the system during periods of rain.

Soil Moisture Sensors can determine the amount of available water in the soil, and override a scheduled irrigation if moisture levels are sufficient.

Some additional Smart Irrigation controllers can include factors such as soil type, slope, predicted weather, and plant type to override or reschedule irrigation.

What’s most important is irrigating based on plant needs rather than a set schedule. Even without sensors and the most advanced technologies, using a simple rain gauge in your garden can allow you to monitor rainfall and make irrigation adjustments as needed.


Planning your Urban Landscape


Soil health, plant choice, and planning will help your urban landscape ACHIEVE maximum water efficiency

Plant type, plant maturity, soil type, and sun exposure are all important factors to consider when planning your lawn and garden.

Grouping plants with similar sun exposure and water needs can make your irrigation system more efficient, and choosing native plants and plants adapted to the region will improve water efficiency and plant health.

Soil health is an important factor in soil moisture retention, proper drainage, and plant health. Break up compacted soil to encourage root growth, and incorporate organic matter into your soil. Mulching landscaped areas is also a great way to prevent evaporation of water from the soil and retain soil moisture, and provides additional benefits like weed and disease suppression.

Consider functional use of plants, like herb and vegetable gardens, and make sure plant choice includes native plants or plants well-adapted to the region for more efficient water use. Keeping plants healthy and promoting root growth will make plants less susceptible to heat and drought and also improve water efficiency.

Consider this innovative model: where agriculture meets the urban landscape. Urban farm Grow with the Flow, LLC out of Tucker, Georgia implements productive fruit and vegetable landscapes in areas that would otherwise be planted in turf grass. “Lawns are the top ‘crop’ that is irrigated, but serve mostly an aesthetic purpose,” says co-owner of Grow with the Flow, Reggie Ramos. “There are several benefits to our model: the homeowner has less to mow and irrigate, and what is irrigated is vegetables sold back into the community.” Grow with the Flow leverages a network of lawns, all within 3 miles of each other, and implements Smart Irrigation practices — including collecting rainwater in a 1500 gallon rain cistern.