Irrigation Audits: The First Step Toward Efficient Irrigation

Did you know that watering lawns and landscapes can account for up to 50% of an average homeowner's total water use? Sadly, much of that water can be wasted due to inefficient or poorly maintained irrigation systems. With many cities imposing severe water restrictions due to drought, it is more important than ever to find out exactly how your sprinklers are performing. Read on to learn how an irrigation audit can save you a lot of water while keeping your landscape healthy and beautiful.

What Is an Irrigation Audit?

The best way to determine your sprinkler system efficiency is to have a certified professional come to your property and perform a detailed irrigation audit. They will conduct a series of inspections, run some performance tests, collect data, and calculate the efficiency of your system, zone by zone. They will also use this data to determine exactly how long you should run your sprinklers to keep your plants healthy while avoiding runoff and water waste.

An irrigation audit will tell you many things about your system, including:

  • Problems with your existing system, such as blocked, clogged, or misaligned sprinklers
  • Improper spacing of sprinkler heads
  • The capabilities or limitations of your sprinkler timer
  • If you have too little or too much water pressure
  • Your soil type, root zone depth, and the amount of water available to the plants
  • How evenly your sprinklers distribute water
  • How much water your plants need based on their type and water requirements

After inspecting your system for any potential problems, the auditor will conduct a catch can test by placing a number of identical containers throughout your yard, then running your sprinklers for a few minutes. By measuring the amount of water collected in each catch can, the auditor can tell exactly how much water is being applied and how evenly it is distributed.

A soil probe is used to determine the soil type (clay, loam, or sand) and how deep the roots extend. All of this information is combined to develop a more accurate watering schedule. The schedule will tell you exactly how often and how long to run your sprinklers to deliver the precise amount of water needed. You might be surprised at the results.

Once you know exactly how your system performs, consider making some improvements to increase its efficiency. It may be worthwhile to upgrade your sprinkler timer to a newer, more powerful model with water-saving features like Cycle+Soak and water budgeting. You may want to consider replacing old, worn out sprinklers with newer, more efficient models like dual spray or rotary nozzles. Adding a rain sensor or converting part of your system to drip irrigation can also save a lot of water. Your auditor can provide some suggestions on ways to make your sprinkler system more efficient.

Check with your local water district: They may be able to provide you with referrals to irrigation audit professionals in your area. You can also ask your local landscape professional if they have a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor on staff that can help you. A properly designed and maintained irrigation system will help keep your yard beautiful all season long, saving you time, effort, and most importantly, water. Stay tuned for more helpful irrigation tips from Rain Bird and be sure to visit for more information about efficient irrigation systems and The Intelligent Use of Water™.

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