General Notes On Irrigation – How We Win The Water War In Our Homes

Irrigation is the process by which we relax and let Man take over the work of God. I realize this sounds dreadfully hyperbolic, but, honestly, it is what it is. If we waited for rain and natural elements to supply our watering needs, we’d soon face the fact that not much would make it. Gardening and landscaping are not like farming in Illinois and Iowa, where somewhat (!!) predictable rainfalls can be relied on to supply us with our liquid energy.

The current concerns of Global Warming and somewhat Apocalyptic thinking also takes issue with general water availability, concerned that we uses water in gardens which would be better used elsewhere. I think this fear is undoubtedly a truism. But I do not think it’s remotely applicable, either, perhaps even in particular related to gardening. The Sahara could use more water. The Gobi gets pretty doggone dry. You can downright drown by going outside on the Olympic Peninsula in Winter.

Reasonable and very smart people have put themselves at this problem and have concluded numerous things. Some places should worry about water more than others. Some places get abundant water. We are not yet geared for transferring water from British Columbia (which gets too much) to California and Nevada (which, Lord knows, could use more). Nor are places like Atlanta, Georgia properly planned for the drought conditions they recently underwent, finding they had far too few resources in place for collection and storage of water. We so often, as a species, wait until the Worst shows up before dealing proactively with the problems facing our frantic expansion.

Having said that, I marvel at Reno, Nevada’s foresight now and then, with their excellent storage system of reservoirs, catching the always-needed snowmelt. Sure, when the snow is meager, they suffer a bit. But when it is average or better, they pack it in, big time. They also have implemented largely successful water-stretching plans consisting of policing the worst abuses of overwatering and waste and of educating the public about the ways to lessen the need for wasteful water practices, from low-use toilets to shorter showers to smarter plantings in the garden and wiser irrigation practices.

There are other positive developments in water usage – on site storage of rainwater and snow melt by use of catch basins and traps. Grey Water is a most promising area. And then there is common sense -

Water consciousness is a blooming (pardon the pun) field. The term “water auditing” is making its way into our lexicons and is the height of wisdom, especially for those who actually pay for water. It’s like accounting for grocery expenditures – it is a real and present cost, complete with ways of cost-saving – sometimes huge ones.

Irrigation practices have now officially made their way into the limelight as a method of actually saving money. It may seem odd to couple “saving water” with “irrigation” and it does presume that one already waters his yard and garden – there is that. If you have no garden whatsoever, why are you reading this?

But almost anyone reading here has a garden or lawn. We ask ourselves, how we can help and still garden?

Wise irrigation is a booming area. Irrigation companies are awarding big bucks for innovations and for ideas which help limit the wise use of water, including changing plants to more native varieties, changing the delivery systems of the water we use to more efficient ones and changing our senses of design and sustainability in ways which are new, different and actually very exciting. Did you realize, for example, that by changing – say – one half of your lawn to flowers and shrubbery, you can reduce your water costs by 70%? Did you realize there are now systems in place which accurately deliver the precise amount of water needed to plants, with little or zero waste? Did you know that a scrupulous monitoring of water usage based on an audited need can cut water use by up to 90%?

Watering our lawns and gardens were once just taken for granted as much as breathing the air around us. The dang stuff was everywhere!  ;-)   But times have changed – like everything else. Now we find ourselves searching diligently for methods of changing our ways so that we can not over extend what we once took for granted into some impossible-to-access corner.

I’m going to present a hopefully accessible look at irrigation from a user and installer’s perspective. As a contractor who has specialized in irrigating lawns and plants, I think I hold an interesting perspective from which we can all gain something. Watching the various reactions to the looming water shortages around the globe and here at home, I think I can present ways of maximizing the use of this precious resource while still allowing us to enjoy what means so much to us all – a good garden.

Kenny is a mouth breather. ;-)

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