When it comes to maximizing your irrigation efforts, one of the first things you should do is ensure that your water use is actually proving effective. After all, if a large portion of the water your sprinklers release is actually flowing onto the sidewalk, that runoff is both costly and wasteful. The good news is that there are a few things you can evaluate to ensure that the water you apply to your yard is actually being used. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Understanding the Soil-Intake Rate
The intake rate is the rate at which your soil can actually absorb the water from the irrigation system. This rate can vary based on the composition of the soil. For example, clay soils will absorb water slower than a loose, sandy soil.
To test the intake rate of your soil, create an enclosed space over the grass in one area of the yard. The goal is to have a place that you can fill with water and then measure that water over time as the soil absorbs it.
Fill the structure with water and put a ruler inside to measure the depth of the water. Check back every half hour or so and note the changes in the water depth. After a couple of hours, you can average out the absorption levels to determine the intake rate. It'll be measured in fractions of an inch per hour.
Considering the Saturation Level
While you're evaluating the intake rate, you also need to consider the saturation level. If you're not familiar with this term, the saturation level is the amount of water that your soil will absorb before it is unable to absorb any more.
After you check the water level repeatedly for the intake rate, it's time to start monitoring that water level until it stops changing. When the water level no longer drops, that's because the soil beneath is saturated and cannot absorb any more. The difference between how much water you started with and what's left now tells you the saturation level of the soil.
Applying This Information to Your Irrigation System
Once you know how fast your soil absorbs water and when it reaches its saturation level, you can calculate a series of watering schedules that maximize this information for eliminating runoff. This is referred to as cycling your water application.
Cycling allows you to apply smaller amounts of water over the course of several watering periods instead of watering all at once. When you apply the water all at once, the soil isn't able to absorb it fast enough to actually put it all to good use. Instead, adjust the water flow in your sprinklers so that you're not applying more than the ground can actually absorb at a time. Use the intake rate to help you determine how much water the soil can absorb in a half hour, and then adjust the water flow rate to apply that much or a little less evenly over that half hour.
Once you've set your sprinklers so that they only apply as much as your soil can handle at a time, you should then set your watering schedule. Allow time between sprinkler applications for the water you've just applied to filter into the soil. Consider the saturation point of your soil and schedule enough watering cycles to be close to or equal to that saturation point. This ensures that your yard is getting all of the water it can through every irrigation cycle.
These tips will help you to determine how much water your yard can handle and even make it easier for you to adjust your sprinkler system accordingly. Talk with your irrigation company today for tips about adjusting the water flow so that you can minimize your runoff and water waste.