Is your irrigation system leaking?

Most irrigation systems are inefficient and use much more water than is necessary. In addition, irrigation systems are prone to develop leaks which may go undetected because they are not directly used, as a sink or toilet is. This causes irrigation systems to use even more water than necessary. That being said, how can you check to see if your irrigation system is leaking?
First of all, you should check your historical water use. You can find this information on your water bill. If you would like to see a long-term water usage, contact your water company. When looking over your historical water use, you should look for a jump in water usage. However, be careful that you consider seasonal water usage. Depending on your location, a seasonal water trend will look like a bell-little water use in the cool winter months such as January. As the temperature changes, you will use more water. Your peak usage should be in about July or August, and then should slowly decline as the temperature drops and you receive more precipitation. If there is a spike in your water usage, you likely have a leak.
Another way to determine if your irrigation system is leaking is by installing a dedicated landscape meter. Dedicated landscape meters are useful in determining whether or not you have a leak because they measure the amount of water used specifically for irrigation. In addition, you will save money on your water bill because most water companies charge for sewage based on the amount of water used for indoor uses. By installing a dedicated landscape meter, you will not be charged sewage rates for irrigation water since it should filter through the ground instead of flowing into storm drains or sewers.
The third way to check if your irrigation system is leaking is by a visual inspection. Walk your property where your irrigation pipes are and look for areas of landscape that are wet and should not be. Note that this should be done before your irrigation system runs. If you see any wet areas of landscape, it is likely that you have an underground leak and the water is seeping into the ground. Other problems that you might see are broken sprinkler heads, which look like geysers. You may also see streams of water spraying from sprinkler bodies, pipes, or fixtures. These are caused by pinhole leaks and only can be detected when the system is pressurized (while the irrigation system is running).
Brian O’Neill

What can green infrastructure do to reduce runoff?

Green infrastructure such as permeable surfaces, biological retention systems, and green roofing all help to reduce the amount of runoff released. Each of these methods help capture and store excess rainwater. With ever-growing populations, growing cities pave more and more landscape. Unfortunately, non-permeable surfaces are the predominant choice for developers. Non-permeable surfaces transport nearly 100% of the rainwater directly into storm drains where it must be treated and eventually released back into the environment. Methods such as permeable surfaces, biological retention systems, and green roofing all help to reduce the amount of water that must be treated.

Permeable surfaces are simply surfaces that water can pass through. For example, cement pavers are permeable surfaces because water is able to pass between and infiltrate the ground. Cement slabs, on the other hand are not permeable because there is nowhere for the water to flow, aside from to storm drains.

Biological retention systems are areas with living organisms designed to remove pollution from stormwater and let it re-enter the natural hydrological cycle. Some biological retention systems look like small ponds during the rainy season. However, care must be taken to avoid standing water because it attracts potentially dangerous species such as mosquitos.

Green roofing also helps reduce the amount of rainwater that must be treated. Green roofs are specially-constructed to structurally hold substantial weight and be extra waterproof. These roofs are then covered in soil and planted. As a result, the water that would have flowed off the roof and into gutters is now captured by living systems and used in a beneficial process. Not only do green roofs help reduce storm water flows, but they are also attractive alternatives to standard roofing types.

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Brian O’Neill