Minimize water use in your landscape by following some best practices for your sprinkler and irrigation systems, creating a water budget and using irrigation controllers. For agriculture-specific irrigation information, see the irrigation calculator for growers.
Sprinklers & irrigation best practices
- Minimize evaporation. Water between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and use a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around plants.
- Eliminate runoff. Check your irrigation system frequently, and adjust sprinklers for overspray and runoff. Divide your watering cycle into shorter periods.
- Plants and watering. Change plant material to low-water use or native plants. Water plants deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes. Santa Barbara offers this 7-minute overview of how to deep water trees so they stay healthy and hydrated while using less water.
- Water only when needed. Using a screwdriver or moisture meters as a soil probe, test the soil moisture. If it's moist, you probably do not need to irrigate. Install a rain shut-off device on your automatic sprinklers to eliminate unnecessary watering. Learn more about Valley Water's rebate for installing rain sensors or smart controllers.
Creating a Water Budget
The water budget considers the landscape area, plant type, plant water needs, irrigation system design and efficiency, and real-time water that the landscape receives either by irrigation or precipitation.
Water budgets must be associated with a specified amount of time, such as a week, month, or year.
- Properties and landscapers can get help creating a water budget at Watefluence.com, if they pre-qualify.
- Commercial property owners may qualify for assistance through our Large Landscape Program.
Sometimes referred to as timers or clocks, an irrigation controller is a device that operates automatic irrigation systems, such as lawn sprinklers and drip irrigation systems. Irrigation controllers help you adjust your irrigation schedule to avoid overwatering, increased cost and maintenance, and property damage.
Most controllers have a means of setting the frequency of irrigation, the start time, and the duration of watering. They can be as simple as a clock (inefficient), can connect to your phone, or only irrigate when needed based on soil moisture or local weather stations.
Valley Water offers rebates for installing more efficient irrigation controls.
Irrigation controller features
Key features of irrigation controllers include:
- Stations control the valves that release the water to the irrigation zone (station) in your landscape
- The start time is the time, which a specific valve will open to irrigate a station.
- The run time is time a specific valve will open to irrigate a zone.
- Semi-Auto (if available on your controller) lets you run through an entire program A, B, C whenever you want supplemental watering.
- The off and on feature will stop programs from running until you toggle back to “run”. Good for rainy periods of time.
- The manual button permits you to set a single station for the amount of time you select. Good for checking for leaks or troubleshooting.
Check out how to program your irrigation controller from Pasadena Water and Power. This quick overview will coach you the irrigation controller essentials in less than 5 minutes! Upgrade from a conventional to a smart controller with help from a rebate.
Adjusting your irrigation controller
- Hydrozone each program, based on watering, soil, and sun requirements of each area or zone (A, B, or C)
- Set valve run times: Adjust the time on valve per Hydrozone, Lawns/shrubs/flowers
- Set start times for each program: Generally, start in the early morning.
- Program days on and off: Give each program a unique day on/off. Example: Lawns on Monday-Wednesday-Friday
- Make adjustments and repairs in Manual Mode: used to turn on a station to review for adjustments, repairs.
- Semi -Auto: A, B, C- Semi-Automatic Program operation enables an automatic Program watering cycle to be started manually at any time. Once running, the manual advance feature enables you to step through the programmed station sequence.
- Visit YouTube to watch this video tutorial for more information.
Irrigation & sprinkler resources
- The California Association of Water Agencies web portal is a one-stop-shop for homeowners and professionals looking for information and online resources on water-efficient irrigation. Homeowners will find easy-to-understand information about how residential sprinkler systems work, information on drip irrigation and other smart ways to reduce landscape water use, as well as loads of online resources. The portal was created Created as part of the association's Save Our Water campaign.
- Find irrigation scheduling assistance from the San Jose Water Company.
- From basics to guidelines, to water-efficient technology to help you schedule your irrigation system, from the California Water Efficient Partnership.
- For irrigation professions, the Irrigation Association has a wealth of irrigation information including online learning, videos and webinars, and technical resources.
- Find local irrigation supply stores that carry water-efficient irrigation equipment.
- Visit South Bay Green Gardens to find landscape designs, sample project photos, lists of professionals to help complete your project, and more.
Lawns can be the single biggest water user for a typical property; a small lawn can use more than 18,000 gallons a year. That means lawns offer the greatest potential for water savings! Find tips for reducing water use and caring for your lawn on our Landscape Guides and Resources page.
Valley Water offers several rebates through its Landscape Rebate Program for qualifying equipment that helps improve the efficiency of sprinkler and irrigation systems.