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Starting up your irrigation system

| April 25, 2010 9:00 PM

With the unseasonably warm dry weather we have experienced, chances are you are thinking about pressurizing your irrigation system, if you haven't already done so. In this column, we'll look at the steps that should be taken in the early season to make sure your watering system is running in top condition, and not wasting water. It is likely that water restrictions could be a real possibility, given the summer is predicted to be hotter than normal, which follows a below average snow pack this past winter. We all should be prepared by maintaining an efficient irrigation system.

Once you open the valve that supplies your water, it is critical that you (or someone) check each valve and individual sprinkler for proper function. This process doesn't need to take very long, but catching a problem early can lead to significant savings for the rest of the year. A single sprinkler that normally emits 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), might emit four or five times that if it is operating in "geyser mode." Over the course of the season, that 10 gpm really adds up and can cost a lot of money and waste a lot of water.

If repairs need to be made, make sure that the sprinkler or nozzle that is replaced matches the rest of the system. At the very minimum, try to match the nozzles on the rest of the station since performance differs vastly from one nozzle to another. An unmatched station will result in uneven watering, which leads to wet and dry spots in your yard. Most sprinkler nozzles are numbered or color coded for easy identification, and a knowledgeable supplier will be able to help match those components with what you have in the ground.

Valves should also be in good working order, free of leaks and cracks. If a valve fails to work, they are relatively easy to troubleshoot or replace. Make sure all wire connections are tight before replacing a valve. I have a border collie that has an affinity for lifting valve box lids and separating the splice caps on my valve wires each winter. I haven't caught her in the act, but when I do, I'm going to have her dig up the valve to repair it. Aside from electrical gremlins, irrigation valves are a relatively simple device that should provide years of maintenance free service.

In addition, on systems fed by city water connection, it is important to have your backflow prevention system inspected and certified. This is a requirement in most municipalities in our area as a way of safeguarding our drinking water supply. Many licensed irrigation specialists will be able to perform this simple test, or a retailer can help you identify someone in your area that can help.

Next week we'll discuss seasonal scheduling of your system to match the weather conditions from month to month. The goal is to make your lawn the healthiest it can be without wasting our very precious water resources and money.

If you have any questions or feedback contact Kevin Hicks at khicks@cdaresort.com.

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