Smart Lawn Watering

by Barry Hallsted

After several dry years, seeing the snowpack on the mountains this year is a welcome sight. How we water our lawns during years of adequate precipitation may be of little concern. As such, our watering practices may actually be detrimental.

Our soil should be cared for as a living system. For our plants and lawns to thrive, we need to consider the ideal breakdown of soil. Soil consists of 45% mineral matter, 5% organic matter (although in Utah it is less than 1%), 25% water and 25% air. When we over water, the air is displaced, compaction of mineral matter occurs and the cycle of living organisms in our soil is disrupted.

Plants and grass will wilt and stress if they are lacking for water. But when we overwater, the air (oxygen) needed by the root system is displaced and the soil becomes “waterlogged.” When we over water, root rot prevails and our plants and grass will become stressed, unhealthy, and often die.

Most are unaware of the importance of proper watering. Many of us just don’t want to keep adjusting our sprinkler clock throughout the growing season. Consistently, ailments and problems with our shrubs and trees are a result of overwatering.

Fortunately, there are excellent resources available to help us improve how we water and consequently reduce our water usage. Here are some points to consider:

  • The water districts in our state have teamed up with USU County Extension offices to provide a free “water check.” Go to www.slowtheflow.org. The program has been very helpful and popular. Their schedule fills quickly, so get scheduled as early as possible. When they come out, they will help you know exactly how long to run each sprinkler or drip station. They will also point areas where sprinkler coverage is less than adequate.
  • Another great way to water adequately, adjust for weather changes, and reduce or eliminate the need to adjust your timer clock is to install one of the new smart sprinkler system controller systems. Several smart controllers are Wi-Fi enabled. The controller is linked to the local weather station and it adjusts the watering days and times as needed based on temperature, hours of sunlight, humidity levels and precipitation. You can easily adjust the schedule from your smartphone for mowing days or planned outdoor activities. You can also set up one schedule for the lawn and another for gardens and trees.
  • Currently Central Utah Water Conservancy District is offering a rebate of 50% of the cost (up to $150). To learn more, go to rebates.cuwcd.com. If you purchase a smart controller, make sure it meets the EPA “Water Sense” criteria. The rebate website has a link of qualifying controllers.

Benjamin Franklin said, “when the well is dry, we will know the worth of water.” In past years, the City had to implement watering day restriction. Unfortunately, if you were restricted to watering only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it was easiest to just select all three days for watering. Other than the hottest months, you were likely using too much water too frequently. With the new smart sprinkler controllers, they will adjust to the needs of your yard and help us conserve water as we provide the optimum amount of water.