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Residential Water Use

 

Mini Irrigation Efficiency Checks

Keeping your irrigation system in good working condition will help keep your overall water use down.

Once a month, conduct a mini morning irrigation audit. Grab your favorite morning beverage and take a walk around your property while the irrigation system is running.

Download and print a checklist for your audit

What to look for

Sprinkler System

  • High pressure – Look for a very fine mist. Up to 50 percent of water can be lost to wind and evaporation.
  • Low pressure – Look for distinct green circles of grass around the sprinkler head with brown patches elsewhere. Pressure could be low due to sprinkler heads having worn wiper seals, a valve malfunction or a supply issue.
  • Missing, damaged or tilted/tipped sprinkler heads will create uneven watering patterns.
  • Clogged nozzle – Look for water coming out of the sprinkler head in a finger-like pattern.
  • Sunken or elevated sprinkler head – Sunken sprinkler heads can get obstructed by grass. When elevated too high, sprinkler heads are unsightly and easily damaged.
  • Obstructed or aimed in wrong direction – Sprinkler heads should be watering grass while avoiding walls, rocks or tree trunks. The heads may need to be moved or redirected.
  • Mismatched sprinkler heads – A sprinkler system is most efficient when it has matching sprinkler heads. Each manufacture designs its sprinkler heads to deliver water at a certain rate and because the rate is not standard, mixing brands creates an uneven delivery of water.

Drip system

  • High pressure – Emitters have popped off.
  • Low pressure – The water is coming out fast at the beginning of the line but slow at the end. Pressure-compensating emitters may fix the problem.
  • Clogged emitter – Replace or clean out. Pressure compensating drip emitters are recommended.
  • Blown-out emitter – Emitter is present but is allowing too much water to be delivered. Replace emitter.
  • Missing emitter – Replace emitter.
  • Emitter without plant – Install a goof plug or put in a plant.
  • Dripline leak – Look for a wet spot with no emitter. You may see excessive weed growth and the ground may feel soft. Replace the line.
  • Mismatched equipment – Water output is typically stamped on emitters in gallons or liters per hour (1, 2 or 4 gph). Mismatched emitter output results in uneven delivery of water to plants on the same dripline. Verify that emitter output meets plant water needs.

Bubblers

  • Bubblers need berms and basins – Bubblers put out water quickly and the water needs to be corralled so that it can soak into the root zone of the plants. Nonadjustable pressure compensating bubblers are recommended.

Overwatering

  • Signs of overwatering plants: Leaves turn a lighter shade of green or yellow. Young shoots are wilted. Growth is excessive. Algae or mushrooms are on or around plants.
  • Signs of overwatering grass: Water constantly puddles in areas. Turf has a musty odor. Soil is extremely soft and mushy. Algae or mushrooms are present.
 

Find and Fix Leaks

According to the EPA, the average household loses more than 10,000 gallons of water each year through leaks – that’s the same amount of water needed to wash 280 loads of laundry, take 600 showers or meet the average family’s water needs for a month! Some leaks are slow and hard to detect, but even the smallest leaks add up.

Scottsdale Water and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association have created a step-by-step Smart Home Water Guide to help you find leaks that are draining your budget and provide you with tips for efficient home water use.

The Smart Home Water Guide water guide is available through the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) website, or you can request a hard copy of this and other Water Conservation publications online or by calling 480-312-5650.

 Water and My Pool

Is the pool leaking?

Most pool leaks are found in the pool equipment. Periodically turn the pool equipment on and look for visible leaks on the equipment and for wet spots on the ground between the equipment and the pool. Also look for white crusty mineral deposits on pipes, which could indicate a slow leak.

Do a Bucket Test to see if there are nonvisible Leaks:

You can read the instructions below or watch: How to Do a Bucket Testlinks to external site

The bucket test is simple. You'll need a bucket and a wax pen.

  1. Stop manually adding water to the pool or turn off the water to the pool’s autofill until the test is complete. (An autofill is a device that fills your pool with water automatically. As with skimmer baskets, autofills are typically located next to the pool inside a recessed container beneath a round lid.) To turn off the autofill, find the pool's backflow device, which is usually located at the back or the side of the house. The pool's water supply line is usually the first line out of the pool's backflow. Turn its shut-off valve to the off position.
  2. Don’t backwash or allow any water to splash out of the pool during the bucket test.
  3. Place a bucket or container on a pool step without submerging it, and fill it with water to the same level as the pool water. Use a wax pen to mark the level of the water in the pool.
  4. Wait a minimum of two to three days to let natural evaporation occur. If it rains or it’s a windy day you may have to redo the test. If the levels in the pool and in the bucket go down the same amount, then you do not have a leak. If the water level in the pool has dropped more than the level in the bucket, you have a leak.
  5. To determine whether the leak is in the pool structure or the plumbing system, repeat the test with the pool equipment running and again with the pool equipment turned off. If more water was lost with the pump running, the plumbing is probably the cause.

How much water does my pool lose to evaporation?

Pool evaporation rates vary for a variety of reasons, including sunlight intensity, air and water temperature, wind, humidity and shading. It's estimated that a 400 sq. ft. pool will lose approximately 19,665 gallons of water per year to evaporation. This table shows inches and gallons of water lost to evaporation for each month.

Estimate of water lost to evaporation each month from a 400 sq. ft. pool.

Month Inches of Water Lost Gallons of Water Lost
January 2.6 653
February 3.5 860
March 5.4 1,346
April 8.1 2,015
May 9.9 2,456
June 10.8 2,590
July 10.4 2,586
August 9 2,242
September 7.5 1,872
October 5.9 1,461
November 3.6 895
December 2.4 588
Does not include water gained from rainfall.

Water saving tips for pools

  • Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation and help keep your pool clean. A cleaner pool needs fewer chemicals and less backwashing. Consider using the new chemical covers, which create a microthin film of molecules on the water surface to reduce water loss to evaporation.
  • Pools seldom require draining if chemical levels are properly maintained, so consult a professional to make sure it’s necessary. Consider using water restoration systems that eliminate the need to drain the pool.
  • If you have to refill your pool, know the rules related to draining and backwashing.
  • Recycle pool water when backwashing by applying the water to the landscape. Don’t add new chemicals for up to 72 hours, then use the backwash to water salt-tolerant plants such as oleanders, Bermuda grass, and natal plum.
  • Backwash only when needed and just long enough for the water to run clean.
  • Minimize 'splash out' by not overfilling the pool.

Smart Irrigation Controllers

Climate-based smart controllers automatically adjust watering schedules throughout the year based on the estimated amount of moisture in plant soil, replenishing water only as needed and minimizing excess water use. A properly programmed smart controller requires initial site-specific set-up and will make irrigation schedule adjustments, including run times and required cycles, throughout the irrigation season without human intervention. 

Smart controllers use a variety of methods to estimate or measure soil moisture depletion including: 

  • Pre-installed historical weather data  
  • On-site weather data collection 
  • Fee-based weather data acquisition (requires an internet connection or other communication means) 
  • Soil-moisture sensors 
  • Any combination of the above 

After initial set-up and some fine tuning, smart controllers only need to be reprogrammed when there are changes to the landscape or irrigation system. Proper programming requires knowledge of plants, soils and other landscape conditions. It is important to read your manual for program instructions or contact a landscape professional who has experience working with smart controllers.

Resources

  • Scottsdale’s Water Conservation Office offers free landscape workshops every March and October to residents on a variety of landscape topics that may help in programming a smart controller. 
  • The Irrigation Association has developed an independent third-party testing protocol specific to smart climate-based controllers. Product performance summaries are available on their website links to external site.
  • Smart controllers are eligible for the irrigation controller rebate.

Smart Controller Watering Tip

Desert plants prefer deep and infrequent watering. Read Landscape Watering by the Numbers (PDF) links to external site for information on depth and frequency of watering.