Spring irrigation basics: Put your landscape on a water diet

If you’re starting up irrigation for the year, now is a good time to make sure you’re not needlessly adding more water than your plants can use.

The approach of warmer weather invites a chance to slim down before summer. I’m talking about your water use, of course — and your outdoor landscape.

Many home irrigation systems were turned up full blast last summer during the second driest year ever in San Antonio and even under Stage 2 watering rules. Nearly one later we’re still in Stage 2.

So, if you’re starting up your irrigation system for the year, this is a good time to make sure you’re not adding unnecessary water weight to your plants.

A few tips for the season:

  • Follow Stage 2 watering rules. Make sure your irrigation system controller is set to water only on your day (based on the last digit of your street address) between the 7-11 hours.
  • Check the current time on your sprinkler controller. Many controllers use a 9-volt battery so you won’t have to reset the time if the power goes out. If you haven’t replaced the battery in years, this is a good time to do that.
  • Spring cleaning. Thoroughly weed the irrigation controller settings before you turn the sprinklers on. Keep an eye out for extra watering schedules from last summer. Remove any extra days, programs and start times.
  • Use seasonal adjust. At this time of year sprinklers can run on minimal settings, if at all. Grass doesn’t really start growing in earnest until mid-April. Seasonal adjust lets you turn the program up and down easily on many sprinkler controllers. In April, you can start of the year at 75% to save water during the wettest months of the year.
  • Watch for sprinklers gone wild! Look out for the irrigation system running when you’re not expecting it. It’s okay to run the sprinklers manually until you get a feel for what they do and how much water they use. Just leave the system off and turn it on the day you expect it to run. Just remember to turn it off after it stops cycling.

Just because it’s spring doesn’t mean you have to turn on your irrigation system. Many plants are doing great after recent rains.

A single irrigation cycle typically uses 2,000 gallons, and sometimes much more depending on the size of the system. That can double or triple your water bill.

A hand-held hose will always use much less water than in-ground irrigation because the person holding it tends to apply water only where it’s needed.

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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