Irrigation tips to save water

WaterSmart Tips

Irrigation Spray

Irrigation Spray

Save water, improve plant health, and lower watering costs for your commercial landscape. These tips apply to homeowner association common areas, business parks, and roadside and median landscape areas.

Check your irrigation system to optimize efficiency.

  • Repair broken sprinklers, pipes and fittings.
  • Add or move sprinklers to apply water evenly to plants.
  • Adjust sprinkler spray pattern to match planting area. Use the correct radius nozzle for the area being watered.
  • Straighten leaning sprinklers and raise sprinklers that are blocked by plants.
  • Standardize sprinklers and nozzles. Since they apply water at different rates, do not mix rotor and spray sprinklers on the same valve.
  • Schedule irrigation system checks on a regular basis during the irrigation season.

Check irrigation meter regularly.

  • If the meter indicates leaks, make necessary repairs.
  • Use the meter to track consumption.
  • Use meter readings to meet a water budget.

Improve controller scheduling using:

  • Multiple programs - Allows you to irrigate planting areas with differing water needs separately so lawns can be separated from established shrubs and groundcovers or newly planted areas.
  • Multiple starts - Minimizes irrigation run-off by applying water at a rate the soil can accept, and keeps water at the root zone. Use 3-4 short run times to give soil time to accept the irrigation water being supplied.
  • Water Budget Feature (% button) - Quickly adjusts sprinkler run times (+/-) during the irrigation season, reducing irrigation later in the summer when plant water needs begin to decrease.
  • Schedule irrigation cycles to water deeply and less frequently. Longer irrigation cycles encourage deep rooting and increase soil moisture for all plants.
  • Create a base schedule. The amount you water is set as a fixed setting (minutes, starts per day, and program number), determined by plant water needs and the type of sprinkler (spray, rotor, drip, etc.). Adjust for seasonal changes by adding or deleting water days or by using the % adjustment feature, using 100% for July, adjusting down through August and September (70%-90%), and removing watering days by October.

Create irrigation controller maps to delineate what landscape area is controlled by what valve. Maps should indicate the type of sprinkler (rotor, drip or spray). Provide backup copies of the maps for management in case maps are lost or damaged.

Use a water budget! EBMUD offers free water budgets to irrigation only accounts. Check your bill -- you may already have water budget printed on your bill. If your water use exceeds the recommended budget, follow the tips above or call EBMUD for assistance.

Try weather-based irrigation controllers. These controllers adjust automatically throughout the year based on programming information from the landscape manager combined with the current weather. The controller uses information such as local weather history, plant type, soil type, and precipitation rates of the sprinklers. For more information on weather-based controller rebates, see Irrigation Programs or call 510-287-1900.

Use colorful, water conserving plants adapted to our climate. See the award-winning EBMUD book, "Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates" for ideas.

Carefully evaluate grass areas. Over time, grass areas may perform poorly because of excessive shade and/or tree roots or poor sprinkler coverage. Consider replacing the grass with less thirsty plants. Check sprinkler coverage, and move or add sprinklers as needed. Grass planted in narrow areas are difficult to irrigate and can lead to excessive water bills and irrigation run-off.

Use mulch. EBMUD recommends 3 inches of mulch to maintain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, protect the irrigation system from the sun, and give the garden a finished look. Organic mulch (wood bark or compost) will also amend the soil as it decomposes. Never apply mulch right up against the main stem or trunk of a plant.


UC Extension Office: Get more tips on lawn watering, aeration, fertilization, mowing, and disease and weed control.

Sustainable Landscape Guide for Commercial Site Managers: Aimed for businesses and communities in California, this guidebook provides the steps to replace turf with low water-use plants, bioswales and rain gardens, permeable pavement, green roofs, and rain tanks and cisterns. 

Decoder Design Guide: Learn how to set-up an irrigation controller.

Residential Sprinkler System Design Guide: Design and install a single family residential sprinkler system.

LEED Guide: Design efficient irrigation qualified for LEED buildings.

Landscape Drip Application Guide: Demystify drip irrigation with this practical guide.

Landscape Drip Conversion Guide: Convert a conventional spray zone to a low-volume irrigation zone.

Irrigation Tutorials: Search for additional tutorials to answer your irrigation questions.