Is Your Landscape Irrigation System Ready for Winter?

Image result for winter residential landscape(Note: Portions of this article originally appeared in SportTurf Magazine)

The dreary days of November remind us that it’s time to start thinking about preparing your irrigation systems for winter.

Here are some tips for winterizing an irrigation system:

Preventing Pipe Damage

Of course, water expands when it freezes. Since automatic irrigation systems are usually buried only about twelve inches below the surface of the soil, any water left in the system over the winter (even a mild winter) will certainly freeze. This causes damage to pipes, fittings, valves, and sprinklers. And this damage can be expensive and time-consuming to repair next spring. So, preventing winter damage by properly winterizing the irrigation system is important.

The following video clip demonstrates the consequences of failing to do so:


The most common method of winterization is to use compressed air to force water out of the irrigation system. However, some irrigation systems are equipped with automatic or manual drain valves. These do not require compressed air to winterize. Check with your installing contractor to determine if your irrigation system has automatic or manual drain valves.

If you’re not sure, then go ahead and use compressed air. Using compressed air on an irrigation system equipped with automatic or manual drain valves will not harm the system components, and will ensure the irrigation system is properly winterized.

Selecting an Air Compressor

Air compressors are available in various sizes. A properly sized air compressor is critical in order do effectively and efficiently blow air into the irrigation system, forcing any water out. The most common portable air compressor (representing about 80% of the portable air compressors in use today) is the 185 portable air compressor. This machine is rated at 185 cfm at 100 psi at full load.

This type of compressor can be found through a contractors’ equipment rental shop, and it’s more than adequate for most residential and commercial irrigation systems. Smaller 5 h.p. electric air compressors, even if they’re 100 psi, do not deliver enough volume of air to adequately winterize an irrigation system.

How-To: Compressed Air Winterization

When using a compressor to winterize your system, follow these steps:

  • Shut off the water to the system at the point of connection. The system shut-off valve may be either a ball valve or gate valve. It should be located in the basement or directly behind the water meter.
  • Next, open a zone valve to relieve the system pressure.
  • Attach the air hose from the air compressor to the blow-out point. The blow-out point is usually located directly behind the backflow device. The blow-out point may be a quick coupling valve, a hose bib, or a boiler drain.
A note of caution: The expanding air coming from the air compressor into the irrigation system will get hot and may melt the plastic pipe. Carefully check the temperature of the air hose connection at the blow-out point. Slow down or stop momentarily if it feels too hot! Cycling through each zone two or three times for short intervals will prevent too much heat buildup.


  • Set the pressure regulator on the air compressor at 50 to 80 psi.
  • On smaller residential systems, where the zones are typically about 10 gpm or less, open one electric remote control valve manually. Then cycle through all the other zones two to three minutes by manually opening each valve or by electrically operating each valve at the controller. Opening one valve manually will help to keep the air compressor from building up too much pressure, while assuring an adequate volume of air to thoroughly blow out all the water in the system. (On larger systems, it may not be necessary to open one valve manually.)
  • Allow the air to flow through each zone until water and water vapor no longer appears from any sprinklers in the zone. Start with the zone with the highest elevation in the system or farthest from the point of connection. Blow out each zone successively toward the point of connection. It’s a good idea to cycle through each zone two times, to ensure no water is remaining.

How-To: Automatic Drain System Winterization

Some systems are equipped with automatic drains that open when the system pressure falls below 10 psi. For these systems, it is usually only necessary to turn off the water.

  • Open a drain valve after the point of connection.
  • Winterize the backflow device and controller (See “Backflow Preventer Winterization” below.)

Some irrigation systems incorporate automatic drain valves on the laterals with manual drain valves on the main line. The manual drain valves will be located in small valve boxes at the end and at low points on the main line. Open the drain valves, and allow the water to drain out completely. Then close the drain valve.

How-To: Manual Drain System Winterization

If your system is equipped with manual drain valves:

  • Locate the drain valve for each zone and the main line. The manual drain is usually located in a small valve box at the end of the zone and at every low point. Also, the main line will have a manual drain at the end of the line and at every low point.
  • Open each drain valve, allowing all the water to drain out, and then close the manual drains.
  • Winterize the backflow device and controller (See “Backflow Preventer Winterization” below.)

How-To: Backflow Preventer Winterization

The backflow preventer is the plumbing device attached to the outside of your house. It is the source of water to the irrigation system, and it can can freeze and burst in only a few hours of below-freezing temperatures. So winterizing your backflow preventer is critical.

Here’s how: (Refer to the above diagram.)

  • Turn off the main shut-off valve to the system (1).
  • Using an adjustable wrench, remove the outlet drain plug or spigot (5) on the outside piping.
  • Turn valves (3 and 4) to a 45-degree angle (half-open/half-closed position).
  • Cover/wrap the backflow valve and all copper pipe with a large towel or blanket.
  • Place 2-3 gallon bucket underneath drain (2) and open the drain valve. Generally, 1-2 gallons of water will empty into the bucket. Once all the water has drained out of the pipe, close the drain valve.

How-To: Controller and Rain Sensor Winterization

To prepare the irrigation controller for winter, simply turn the controller to the off or “rain shutdown” position. (You can also disconnect the power and remove the battery, but this is not necessary.) Do not allow the controller to cycle through an irrigation schedule without water in the system. 

If your irrigation system is equipped with a rain sensor or a soil moisture sensor, it’s not usually necessary to cover or remove the sensor for the winter. Check with the manufacturer to make sure your rain sensor does not require any special instructions for winterization.

How-To: Pump Winterization

If you have a submersible pump (i.e., located in a lake, stream or pond), the check valve at the pump must be removed to keep the discharge hose from freezing. The best way is to simply remove the pump and discharge hose from the water each winter, and reinstall in the spring.

If you have a centrifugal pump, follow these steps:

  • Remove the drain valve (located at the base of the pump housing) and store it for the winter.
  • Disconnect the power supply, to prevent the pump from being accidentally turned on without any water. (A pump running without water will quickly burn up.)
  • If the pump is drawing water from a lake or stream, you must remove the intake hose or suction line completely from the water and store it for the winter.
  • If a check valve is located on the discharge side of the pump, it too must be removed and stored for the winter.

Leave It to the Pros

As you can see, preparing an irrigation system for winter can be a complicated process. A knowledgeable professional is essential to minimize damage caused by freezing. An improperly winterized irrigation system can be an expensive proposition next spring.

WaterSense Celebrates 10-Year Mark

Over the past decade, EPA’s WaterSense program has sparked a market transformation all across North America for irrigation products that save water, energy, and money.

The program was recently threatened by Trump administration budget cuts. (See related article, “AWE Fears WaterSense May Lose Funding.”) But that threat is on hold for now. (See box below.)

Let’s take a look at some of the program’s accomplishments in the last 10 years…

Label and Certification Milestones

Since 2007, more than 21,000 product models of plumbing fixtures and irrigation controllers have earned the WaterSense label for efficiency and performance.  More than 5,000 new models earned the label in 2016 alone. Nearly 68 million individual labeled products have been shipped to date. 

Beginning in 2006, WaterSense certification programs have focused on water-efficient techniques and technologies for certified irrigation system designers, auditors, and installation and maintenance professionals. Since then, thousands of irrigation specialists have been certified and gained an edge in the competitive marketplace.

The Three “P’s” — Products, Practices, People

In an effort to reduce the waste of outdoor water, the EPA program has promoted the three “P’s”— products, practices, and people. This includes:

  • Designing water-smart landscapes that are well-suited for the local climate
  • Installing WaterSense-labeled irrigation controllers, and
  • Hiring WaterSense-certified irrigation professionals.

Their efforts have paid off. For instance, in 2016, the number of labeled irrigation controllers increased by an impressive 63% over the previous year.  These new, web-based models allow users to adjust their irrigation systems via an app on their smartphone.

What’s Next?

In 2017, the WaterSense program is focused on product labeling for pressure-regulating sprinkler bodies. The idea is that large amounts of water can be wasted whenever spray sprinklers operate under higher-than-normal pressure. In other words, significant water savings can be realized by regulating this pressure. To this end, the program recently released a draft specification for these new pressure-regulating sprinklers.

Let’s Keep It Going

The AWE is working to ensure that the WaterSense program can continue unabated. But they need help. Which is why they are seeking signers of letters supporting their proposed legislation to keep it going. To join in this effort, click here.

Environmental Protection Agency

Alliance for Water Efficiency

Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

Wi-Fi-Based Irrigation Technology Explained

Are you still in the dark about how to best incorporate Wi-Fi-based irrigation technology into your business?

The national Irrigation Association recently aired a webinar focused on the growing popularity of this technology, as well as the advantages and opportunities it brings to the landscape irrigation market. (See related article, “Internet-Based Smart Irrigation Systems.”) To purchase the IA webinar, click here.

Landscape Management magazine recently spoke with webinar presenters Stuart Eyring, president of Hydro-Rain, and Chris Klein, CEO and co-founder of Rachio. Here are some highlights of that interview:

How They Work

Q: How do Wi-Fi irrigation controllers work?

Chris Klein (CK): A Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller uses the homeowner’s Wi-Fi network to connect to the cloud. That’s where a lot of the process and scheduling takes place, and then that information is sent back down to the controller. You can have access to it through an app on any device you want—a desktop computer, mobile phone, tablet, etc.—and they all communicate with the same computers in the cloud.

Q: Have you seen examples of Wi-Fi controllers being used to upgrade older systems?

CK: Yes, this is happening at a rapid pace. Eighty-five percent of our customers are replacing working controllers, and it’s just as easy as replacing any other controller.

Q: How do you program Wi-Fi controllers?

Stuart Eyring (SE): In terms of programming, the smartphone apps dramatically add to the ease of which programing is done—it’s much better than programming a typical display controller. But there’s a difference in comfort level in terms of where the user base is coming from. There is a transition point to getting people comfortable with this.

Weather Station Access

Q: Traditional smart controllers had their own weather instruments on-site, but Wi-Fi-based irrigation controllers now have access to millions of weather stations. How do they get evapotranspiration (ET) information?

CK: We use a variety of weather data providers and run them through equations to get ET. This process is getting more and more sophisticated. The other cool thing is homeowners can choose a weather station, which promotes continued engagement with their irrigation system.

SE: In our case, we use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service database in the U.S. Internationally, we use a database out of Norway. But it actually can be very helpful to have a rain sensor at the location, as well, because it can improve reliability.

Q: So you can add other sensors to a Wi-Fi controller?

SE: Yes, we’ve seen an increase in the use of sensing devices like weather stations and moisture sensors on-site that improve the quality of data.

Connections, Security and Updates

Q: What happens to the controller if it loses the Wi-Fi connection?

SE: The majority of the data is kept in the cloud, but there is a basic operating program that’s stored on the actual controller. While the controller won’t typically make any adjustments based on environmental conditions while in that mode, it will continue to run. When the connection is reestablished, the adjustments will begin again. This is typical across manufacturers.

Q: How do you protect security in terms of Wi-Fi and passwords?

SE: Security definitely can be a concern to a homeowner when they allow someone access to their network. But there is a difference between a contractor connecting to a homeowner’s network and connecting through the cloud. In an ideal case, the homeowner is sharing an access code through an app that would allow their contractor to control the system through the cloud, but not have access to the homeowner’s network.

Q: What happens if I buy my controller today and in 60 days it’s out of date?

CK: Updates to the firmware and the app happen automatically, so customers always have the latest and greatest version. In terms of hardware, who knows what will happen in the future, but as of now, our Generation 1 and 2 products work the same.

SE: In most cases, you won’t even know the firmware has been updated unless you go in and look at it. 

(The above flyer can be downloaded and customized for your business. Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply offers it to irrigation contractors as a free sales tool.)

Opportunities and Support

Q: What are the business impacts and opportunities that can be enjoyed by contractors venturing into this arena?

CK: There is a great opportunity to impact a contractor’s business by having a number of connected customers. By installing that product and working with them you have a connection with them. You can stay in touch, the homeowner knows where to go for help and it presents an opportunity for customer retention.

Q: What about support? How do you help contractors when they are stuck?

CK: We have a dedicated contractor phone line and can be reached through email and chat, too.

SE: We have noticed that there is really more upfront hand-holding required. But once the Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller is installed and operating, support requirements go down. That’s because of the ease of the interface and how intuitive it is. Getting started can be challenging, but once contractors get the hang of it, it’s really very easy.


Landscape Management

Irrigation Association

What Are YOU Doing to Promote Smart Irrigation Month?

It’s that time of year again…July is Smart Irrigation Month and, as usual, there are many ways  for businesses and consumers to participate in the campaign.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month continues to gain traction each year as consumers and irrigation specialists alike recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides to all of us.

Give This a Try!

Place a few empty tuna cans around your lawn while you’re watering and measure how long it takes your sprinkler to fill them with a half inch of water. Then, try watering that amount of time twice a week, gauge how your landscape responds, and adjust based on weather conditions. Or simplify by replacing your standard clock timer controller with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller.

Smart Systems

Among the strategies being presented to consumers, first and foremost is proper programming of automatic watering or sprinkler systems to deliver just the right amount of water at the right time.

Additional strategies include:

  • Proper landscaping, keeping soil healthy, mulching and routine landscape maintenance
  • Investing in an irrigation system that uses the best, most flexible, components, has “smart” controls, and meets code requirements
  • Watering during the evening and early morning to prevent evaporation, taking soil type and sprinkler placement into consideration
  • Maintaining the sprinkler system regularly by adjusting sprinkler heads, repairing leaks and monitoring pressure


According the the EPA’s WaterSense website, adopting water–savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending our communities’ water supplies, especially during peak use. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers/distributors, and utilities to bring high-performing, water-efficient products to the marketplace.

WaterSense also partners with professional certifying organizations to promote water–efficient landscape irrigation practices. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a total of 1.5 trillion gallons of water, resulting in more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bill savings.

Smart Ideas

Since July is the peak month for water consumption, the national Smart Irrigation campaign is also encouraging industrial firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies.   Here are just a few of the many  “Smart Ideas” to promote the national campaign that are listed on the Irrigation Association website:

  • Add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your website, ads, customer presentations, field signs, invoices and more.
  • Submit a press release or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Ask employees to add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to their e-mail signature block.
  • Host a live demonstration of water-saving irrigation technologies, in the field or at your location.
  • Feature water-efficient products and services in displays, ads, promotions and product demos with the Smart Irrigation Month logo.
  • Use a banner, outside signage or counter sign to encourage customers to ask about smart irrigation.

smart irrigation month

  • Make smart irrigation the theme of sales calls.
  • Give awards to customers and/or business partners who promote water-efficient practices.
  • Volunteer to speak to a local homeowner association, garden club or civic group.
  • Distribute copies of the Smart Irrigation Month coloring book at a farmers market or county fair.
  • Ask your local radio station to play a public service announcement, promoting July as Smart Irrigation Month.

Remember…Every Drop Counts! What are YOU doing to promote Smart Irrigation Month? 


Irrigation Association

EPA WaterSense

Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Irrigation Systems

As an irrigation specialist, if you’re not already on the “green infrastructure bandwagon,” what’s holding you back?

The green infrastructure (or GI) movement is growing in communities throughout the U.S.  In its position statement, the national Irrigation Association has officially recognized GI as “a promising new market” for irrigation contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers.

(To access the Irrigation Association’s 2014 webinar titled “Green Infrastructure: The Role of Irrigation in Stormwater Management,” Click Here.)

What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

In a nutshell, green infrastructure utilizes living plant material to create a more natural method for stormwater mitigation. GI tools include vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, green roofs and rain barrel installations.  (See related article, “Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!“)

Why is this an important topic for irrigation and landscape professionals?

Well, for one thing, in our current era of heightened water quality concerns, new state and federal investments are being aimed specifically at green infrastructure.

“The opportunity here is to be a resource for water quality managers and sustainability professionals.” That’s according to Paul Lander (Ph.d, ASLA, LEED AP), a consultant with Dakota Ridge Partners in Boulder, Colo.

“In almost every city across the nation, they’re going to have a whole suite of things on their plates. If there’s an opportunity (for irrigation professionals) to be seen as a resource, the profession’s going to go a lot further, and we’ll get more resources coming our way to help with this green infrastructure movement.”

It’s All About Runoff

The big issue, of course is stormwater runoff. Particularly with combined sewer systems, where the stormwater pipes connect to the sewage pipes. Combined sewer systems are found in approximately 860 municipalities across the U.S.. These are mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes.

Not only is this a waste of stormwater, but the sewage treatment facilities are not designed to handle the large volume of water that occurs from a rain event. With as little as a 1/4 inch of rainwater, the combined systems will overflow the rainwater mixed with untreated sewerage into the local waterways.

You may recall when Ohio’s stormwater runoff issues became national news in 2014. That’s when the pollution in Lake Erie forced the City of Toledo to shut off its water supply. For three days.

Green infrastructure has been heralded as a more efficient and effective solution to these water pollution issues than traditional gray infrastructure.

For Municipalities and Neighborhoods

John  Farner, Government and Public Affairs Director for the Irrigation Association, recently explained that, at the municipal or county level, GI refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water for the community.  (See related article, “Can the Ohio River Be Saved?”)

With neighborhoods, on the other hand, GI refers to stormwater systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water. Many states and municipalities (such as Philadelphia) have adopted holistic approaches to watershed management that strongly feature green infrastructure. 

Unfortunately, landscape overwatering is commonplace, Lander said. And it’s the bane of water quality managers. These local, state and federal officials are tasked with ensuring compliance with regulations to minimize ill effects on water sources.

“Increasingly, nonpoint-source pollution, like irrigation runoff, is coming under scrutiny by these folks,” Lander said. Landscape and irrigation professionals who aren’t familiar with nonpoint-source pollution are behind the times, he added.

Opportunity Missed?

Not only that, but they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to partner with water quality managers in pursuit of GI projects.

“It’s all the little things around us that in aggregate can have a big impact,” Lander said. He believes the onus is on the professional irrigation community to step up and participate.

Why? “Sites need green infrastructure and green infrastructure will need smart irrigation,” he said.


Irrigation Association

Irrigation Market Watch

Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!

With April upon us, we are reminded that every year Mother Nature provides us with trillions of gallons of water. Free of charge. In the form of rain.

Last year, for instance, the storms which pummeled the Carolinas dropped enough water to halt California’s five-year drought. And yet, few of us take advantage of learning how to capture this precious resource.

Instead, it flows off lawns into streams, then rivers, then oceans.

A recent article in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine suggests that, when irrigation specialists build cisterns to harvest rainwater, they are providing their customers with “manna from heaven.”

But they’re also helping to build the water infrastructure of the future. And providing themselves with an additional revenue source.

New Revenue Stream

Paul Lawrence, president of Texas Land & Water Designs LLC, has been installing rainwater harvesting systems for the past seven years, and he’s a huge proponent of the practice. Lawrence feels that, not only is it a good source of revenue, but startup costs are low for the contractor.

“Licensed irrigators already have many of the skills that are required for rainwater harvesting; it’s a real natural fit for them,” he says.

And it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Virtually every house and commercial building already possesses roofing, gutters and downspouts. The catchment system simply takes the rainwater that now flows down the street and stores it for use at a later date.

The Basic Setup

There are several different options for storing rainwater: above-ground storage tanks, below-ground cisterns, or downspouts directed to bioswales. Smaller systems (such as those that capture less than a hundred gallons) can use rain barrels for storage.

Whatever option is chosen, a pump may be required to release the water when it’s ready to be used. Most pumps on residential systems are between one-third and one horsepower. That amount of power is sufficient to pressurize the water for either spray or drip irrigation. The pump can be activated manually, or a controller can be used to automate the rainwater flow into the irrigation system.

A couple of important considerations:

  • Sanitation should be the first consideration. At the very least, a screen should be placed in the gutter over the downspout. This will keep out large particulate matter, large solids and leaves.
  • Storage tanks must be properly sealed against pests and bacteria; otherwise, the water inside can become toxic.

  • Every storage tank needs to have an overflow device to prevent backup in heavy-rain situations.
  • The overflow device should be fitted with a flapper valve that will close up immediately after excess water has stopped flowing out. This will keep vermin from crawling up the spout.

An Attractive Option

For property owners who find traditional storage units unattractive, more aesthetically-pleasing options are available. For instance, Aquascape, an Illinois-based company, offers its “RainXchange” system, which combines a recirculating, decorative water feature with an underground storage basin.

According to Irrigation & Green Industry magazine, RainXchange offers the same functionality of other storage systems. Specifically, “It makes use of modular storage basins, stackable blocks that are somewhere between milk crates and Legos, which can be arranged in different shapes to fit a variety of application settings. They sit inside a rubber membrane to form a single, water-tight unit underground.”

Contractors can install the RainXchange system under turf grass. An increasingly common option is to install the system beneath a patio made of permeable pavers. According to Ed Beaulieu, director of field research for Aquascape, “This way, the pavers act as a catchment area that prefilters the rainwater before it enters the blocks. It’s very, very efficient.”

The following video demonstrates the installation of a similar underground system by a Texas-based vendor, Innovative Water Solutions:


Closer to home, Rain Brothers, a rainwater-harvesting company based in Columbus, offers system design services throughout Ohio and much of the Midwest.

A simple residential project typically runs between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on a variety of factors, such as size and excavation costs. For instance, if a client’s property doesn’t allow room for heavy equipment, digging by hand will increase the labor time substantially.

Who Are the Target Customers?

According to most irrigation contractors, conservation is the primary motivator when property owners consider installing a rainwater catchment system. Despite the fact that the installation costs them money, these clients are more worried about the long-term consequences of water shortages, pollution and soil erosion.

They may have heard that capturing rainwater is a tried-and-true method of simultaneously controlling runoff and withstanding drought conditions.

“In a residential setting, it’s next to impossible to show an ROI in three to five years,” Lawrence says. “By and large, those clients are doing it for environmental concerns.”

Add It to Your Menu of Services

Rainwater harvesting is a viable permanent addition to the menu of services offered by landscape professionals. As homeowners rediscover this ancient practice of capturing rainwater, contractors will have increasing opportunities to offer their services for installation projects.

Contractors can easily acquire the skills necessary to get started with catchment system installations. And there is an abundance of resources to ensure your success. The national Irrigation Association offers online classes on the subject, such as “Water Quality of Alternative Water Sources” and “Earning Points for Green Projects.”

In addition, the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) hosts workshops across the country for those seeking to pass their accredited professional exam. The ARCSA also offers a Resource Guide of rain harvesting designers, educators and suppliers.

Once you’re up to speed on best practices, rainwater harvesting can become a highly profitable source of revenue for your company… and a valuable service for your customers.


Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine

Irrigation Association

Innovative Water Solutions

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

How Do I Become a Certified Backflow Tester?

It’s the question most frequently asked by Ohio IA members: “How do I become a certified backflow tester?” 

But before we get into the details of the certification process, let’s explore the reasons behind the testing in the first place.

Why Is It Needed?

Irrigation system backflow devices help protect a home’s drinking water from contaminants such as lawn fertilizers and pesticides. The state of Ohio requires that these devices be tested on an annual basis. 

But this testing can only be done by individuals who have been certified by an approved testing school. This is a legal requirement. In Ohio, there are two such schools: APHC Backflow School and Ohio Contractor Training.

Backflow Disasters

In order to fully appreciate the importance of backflow testing, we need to see the consequences of backflow mishaps.

For instance, in December of last year, a backflow incident in Corpus Christi resulted in the city’s water being contaminated by an asphalt emulsifier known as Indulin AA-86. When a backflow valve in the city’s industrial district failed, about 24 gallons of the petroleum-based chemical were released into the city’s water supply.

Officials ordered a four-day tap water ban for the city’s 320,000 residents. Schools were closed. Several cases of illness were attributed to the tainted water. In the end, the cause of the crisis was eventually traced back to the city’s failure to enforce a testing requirement for its backflow devices.

Similar incidents occur more frequently on a much smaller scale. To view a list of 14 separate incidents compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, click here.

State-approved certification for testers serves to keep these issues to a minimum.

Back to Certification…

There are several requirements which must be met prior to testing certification.

  1. First of all, you must have at least five years of experience working in the plumbing or water purveying industries.
  2. Then you must attend a three-day training course provided by one of Ohio’s approved testing schools. Here you will learn about extensive regulations enforced through the EPA, the Ohio plumbing code, and various municipalities. You’ll also learn how to dismantle and repair various types of backflow devices.
  3. At the end of the course, you must pass a practical exam.
  4. Finally, you need to apply to the Ohio Dept of Commerce for certification. If you meet the state’s requirements (e.g., you have a clean legal background), then you must take the state test. Once you pass the state test, you’ll receive your backflow testing certification card.

The following video clip from Sean Mullarky, owner of TriState Water Workssummarizes the certification process: 


Once you’ve met all the requirements and received you certification, you may then test backflows for irrigation systems.

But wait!  Every three years, state law mandates that you must be re-certified. This requires an additional one day of training and yet another practical exam.

The Benefits – More Work

Certified backflow testers are in high demand. Because Ohio law requires that irrigation systems be tested annually, potential customers will be seeking you out for this service.

We can help promote your testing services. Once certified, your name will be placed on the Ohio IA’s list of Certified Backflow Testers. This list is the second most trafficked page on our website, so it’s sure to generate new business for your company.

Get Started

If you’re ready to begin the certification process, contact APHC Backflow School or Ohio Contractor Training to get started.


Ohio Codes 

TriState Water Works

It’s National Fix a Leak Week!

Did you know….

Each year, household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide? That amount is:

  • Nine percent of the total water needed to end California’s five-year drought
  • Enough to fill 40 million swimming pools and 24 billion bathtubs
  • Almost equal to the capacity of Florida’s vast Lake Okeechobee
  • Equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes

Plug Those Leaks!

The EPA’s “Fix a Leak Week” is a national effort to stop that waste. This year’s event runs from March 20 through March 26.

Much of the problem stems from leaky kitchen and bathroom faucets, malfunctioning toilets and errant sprinkler systems. Fixing some of these easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills, according to the EPA.

Karen Wirth is in charge of marketing and outreach for the EPA’s WaterSense program. In her view, most folks are clueless about the total amount of water wasted because they “see a couple of drips coming out of their shower head, or sprinkler outside, or faucet, it doesn’t seem like that much.” 

So each year, the EPA hones in on the drips during Fix a Leak Week. Special events are planned from coast to coast to teach homeowners how to find and fix household leaks. To download the EPA’s Fix a Leak fact sheet click, click here.

Easy Fixes

There’s a simple way to check for leaks in the toilet, Wirth said. “Just put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If that shows up in the bowl, you have a leak.” This problem can often be fixed by simply replacing the flapper.

Replacing old and worn faucet washers and gaskets fixes most faucet leaks. For leaky shower heads, use pipe tape to secure the connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem.

For the EPA’s complete list of leak fixes, click here.

Leave It to the Pros

Irrigation systems can be another problem area. But this one best left to the professionals.

“An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month,” according to the EPA.

They suggest that homeowners consult an irrigation professional certified by WaterSense to check for leaks throughout the system.


The Washington Post

Alliance for Water Efficiency

It’s Spring Sprinkler Tune-Up Time!

As spring temperatures begin to warm the earth, it’s time to prepare your landscape irrigation system for another season of watering.

Although it’s always best to hire a qualified professional contractor when performing tasks like spring start-up, if you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, you’ll want to follow these tips:

Timing Is Everything

First and foremost, you need to make sure spring has indeed sprung. Since the soil beneath your landscaping is always the last to thaw, use a shovel to confirm that the ground is frost-free 12 inches down. Starting your sprinkler system while the ground is still frozen can result in damage to the pipes. If it’s still hard as a rock, wait another week and try again.

Then check the settings on your sprinkler to make sure they are appropriate for your landscape’s watering needs, and replace the back-up battery in the timer/controller, if necessary.

Go with the Flow

Before turning on any water to the system, double-check that all manual drain valves are returned to the “closed” position.  When you first turn the water back on, be sure to open the system main water valve SLOWLY to allow pipes to fill with water gradually. Failure to do so can result in a high-pressure surge called “water hammer,” resulting in burst pipes and damaged valves.

Ensure that the sprinkler flow is unobstructed by checking for rocks, dirt, sand and other types of debris that could block your sprinkler heads. Keep an eye out for spray heads that may have become buried, allowing debris to accumulate around them during the winter.

Also, bear in mind that nozzles and sprinkler heads are designed to withstand normal wear and tear of irrigation, but not errant lawn mowers or snowplows. It’s important to replace all cracked, chipped or worn components.  A broken or leaky sprinkler can wreak havoc on both your landscaping and water bills.

Valves and Pressure Gauges

The valves in your irrigation system regulate the distribution of water throughout; they are its heart. Which is why you need to visually inspect each valve to determine that it’s operating properly. Verify the proper operation of each station valve by manually activating all zones from the controller.

It’s also important to make sure the water pressure is at a safe operating range.  A system with too much pressure will result in cracked pipes, busted valves, sprinkler head leaks and inefficient watering.

To this end, you may wish to invest in a water pressure gauge that can be used to measure water pressure in your home and yard. These devices typically connect to a hose faucet and give you a good idea of the pressure in your irrigation system. (Suggested operating range is typically 40 -65 PSI.) Hint: If water is “misting” out of your sprinkler heads, your pressure is too high and should be reduced.

Think It’ll Rain? 

Most modern irrigation systems are equipped with a rain sensor. This device should also be checked prior to activating your system in the spring. Here’s how:

  1. First, consult the systems operator’s manual to determine the proper setting for testing your unit. (For example, some systems must be set to the “manual all stations” setting to test them. If that is the case with your system, you cannot test it on the “manual single station” setting.)
  2. After properly setting the irrigation system control, check the system to make sure it came on. (You may need a helper to assist you.)
  3. Once you have confirmed that the sprinkler is running, depress the plunger located on the top of the rain sensor.  The sprinkler system should stop irrigating within a few seconds. 
  4. If watering does not stop when you depress the plunger, you’ll have to troubleshoot the system. Confirm that all wiring connections on the sensor and on the sprinkler control unit are tight. Check to make certain that the jumper tab, also called a jumper wire, was removed when the rain sensor was hooked up to the control panel.

Also be aware that the disk inside a rain sensor can become clogged with dirt or insects, which can keep it from functioning properly. Consult your operator’s manual for the correct procedure to clean the disk.

A Word about Backflow

A backflow device has been installed on your irrigation system in accordance with Ohio state law. This device prevents a cross-connection from occurring between the drinkable and undrinkable water in your home.

Spring is a good time to have your backflow preventer tested, as annual testing of the device is required in the state of Ohio. This testing can only be done by individuals who have been certified by an approved testing school. Backflow testers must have at least 24 hours of training in the classroom and hands-on test lab.

To locate a certified backflow tester in your area, Click Here.

Leave It to the Pros

Again, it’s best to leave all spring start-up tasks to the professionals. A qualified service technician will go through your irrigation system zone by zone and check every irrigation spray pattern for optimum turf and plant coverage, as well as check each sprinkler head and valve for any leaks. He can also test and clean your rain or weather sensor to ensure top performance.

Lastly, the technician will program the controller for the proper irrigation schedule, based on your landscape and weather conditions, as well as neighborhood watering restrictions.


Online Seminars from 2016 Irrigation Show Now Available

Enhance Your Knowledge of Efficient Irrigation and Water Management

If you weren’t able to take advantage of the 2016 Irrigation Show’s numerous educational opportunities, you’re in luck! All of the landscape irrigation seminars from this year’s show are now available for purchase at the Irrigation Association online store.

These one-hour online seminars address the underlying how-to’s of efficient irrigation and water management. All five seminars cost $28 each for members and $38 for nonmembers. Each seminar is worth one continuing education unit. 

These courses run interactively in the IA’s learning management system and are not downloadable. (Please note that you may receive continuing education units only once per certification renewal period for these seminars.)

To access all seminars available through IA’s online store, Click Here.

Seminars from the 2016 Irrigation Show and Education Conference include the following:

Auditing: Soil Moisture vs. Catch Cans

Catch-can audits measure sprinkler performance, while portable soil moisture sensors measure the effectiveness of the irrigation. Both methods are valid, as they both help correlate sprinkler performance with soil moisture uniformity. Uniformity affects irrigation scheduling and, ultimately, the appearance of the turfgrass, as evidenced below:

This seminar is presented by Brian Vinchesi, CIC, CID, CGIA, CLIA, CLIM, CLWM.

Click Here to purchase.

Earning Points for Green Projects

A common goal of most green programs is to reduce or eliminate the use of potable water in landscape irrigation. This seminar looks at various volunteer green programs, such as LEED, Sustainable Sites and Green Globes. It also considers the prerequisites, and explains how points are awarded for irrigation systems and the use of alternative water sources.

This seminar is presented by Doug Macdonald, CLIA.

Click Here to purchase.

Evapotranspiration and Irrigation Management

ET information is often used to provide a reference for determining the amount of water applied to plants. This presentation looks at:

  1. The location of weather stations compared to the site being managed,
  2. How ET is calculated, and
  3. What to consider when modifying the reference ET to estimate water requirements for different types of plants.

This seminar is presented by Brent Mecham, CID, CLWM, CLIA, CAIS, CIC, CGIA.

Click Here to purchase.

Measuring Landscape Water Use

Based on numerous residential and commercial audits, this seminar presents findings on the amount of water used in the landscape compared to estimated water demand. It also includes a look at both irrigation performance and landscape composition, with emphasis on how irrigation efficiency can be improved.  

This seminar is presented by Kelly Kopp, PhD. 

Click Here to purchase.

Water Quality of Alternative Water Sources

Not all sources of water are fit for plants. This seminar will addresses water quality issues with various alternative water sources. It explains how to determine if water is treatable or unfit for irrigation landscaping purposes. The course provides valuable information when considering the use of on-site alternative water sources for irrigation systems.

Click Here to purchase.

Additional information about these seminars and other seminar topics  is available on the Irrigation Association website


Irrigation Association

Join Us at the 2016 Irrigation Show in Las Vegas!



Show Is Set for December 7-8, Education Conference for December 5-9

logoIrrigation Show 2016 is the only national trade show designed specifically for irrigation industry professionals. This year the national Irrigation Association is co-locating with the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), providing the opportunity to visit more than 600 exhibitors.

Nearly 5,000 distributors, dealers, contractors, consultants and growers are expected to attend. You’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Check out innovative products, technologies and services.show2
  • Explore new suppliers.
  • Learn about the latest business trends and irrigation best practices.
  • Network with current business partners and with industry leaders who share the Ohio Irrigation Association’s commitment to efficient irrigation.

For exhibitor information, including booth space fees, assignment, and 2016 floor plan, click here.

As an exhibitor, you also have an opportunity to promote your company and products before the show to all pre-registered attendees.  An Irrigation Association mailing/email list of pre- and post-show attendees is available to all exhibitors at no charge. You can email Shannon Pluta to request the list.

Educational Opportunities

As an irrigation professional, you also may wish to take advantage of the many classes and seminars offered at Irrigation Show 2016.  You’ll learn concepts and practical skills you can implement immediately.

244IrrigationShow2015LongBeach_boxScheduled classes offer:

  • Real-world applications and irrigation case studies.
  • Current techniques, field-tested information and best practices.
  • Instructors with industry expertise and proven teaching experience.

One-hour seminars will provide detailed coverage on a focused topic in landscape irrigation. Seminars are open to all attendees with a full registration. Participants will earn 1.00 CEU for each hour. This year’s topics will include:

  • Auditing: Soil Moisture vs. Catch Cans
  • Measuring Landscape Water Use
  • Earning Points for Green Projects
  • Water Quality of Alternate Water Sources
  • ET & Irrigation Management

For a list of irrigation education classes, click here.  For a list of irrigation seminars, click here.

And back by popular demand:  The Drought Summit!  This event is free to all attendees and exhibitors.

2015 Show Was a Huge Success

Here’s what last year’s exhibitors said:145IrrigationShow2015LongBeach_box

  • 81% reached new qualified customers
  • 87% improved relationships with current customers
  • 85% increased their company’s visibility in the industry

Also, according to a follow-up survey of the 2015 Irrigation Show, within 12 months of the show:

  • 77% of the attendees purchased a product or service as a result of contacts made at the show
  • 90% of the attendees contacted exhibitors met at the show.
  • 90% of the attendees visited exhibitor websites based on information from the show.

The Premier Irrigation Industry Event

las-vegas-convention-centerThis is the premier event to enhance your industry knowledge, network with peers and visit hundreds of exhibitors who can provide you with new solutions for your on-the-job needs.

Explore the show floor exhibits, attend irrigation seminars or learn about the latest irrigation research at the technical sessions offered. Or stay for the entire week, and take advantage of all of the professional development offerings at the Education Conference, slated for December 5-9.

For registration and additional information, click here.

Pack your bags…We’re goin’ to Vegas!


Irrigation Association,

Every Drop Counts…July Is Smart Irrigation Month


It’s that time of year again…July is Smart Irrigation Month and, as usual, there are many ways  for businesses and consumers to participate in the campaign.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month continues to gain traction each year as consumers and irrigation specialists alike recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides to all of us.

Give this a try!

Place a few empty tuna cans around your lawn while you’re watering and measure how long it takes your sprinkler to fill them with a half inch of water. Then, try watering that amount of time twice a week, gauge how your landscape responds, and adjust based on weather conditions. Or simplify by replacing your standard clock timer controller with a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller.

Smart Systems

Among the strategies being presented to consumers, first and foremost is proper programming of automatic watering or sprinkler systems to deliver just the right amount of water at the right time. Additional strategies include:

  • smartProper landscaping, keeping soil healthy, mulching and routine landscape maintenance
  • Investing in an irrigation system that uses the best, most flexible, components, has “smart” controls, and meets code requirements
  • Watering during the evening and early morning to prevent evaporation, taking soil type and sprinkler placement into consideration
  • Maintaining the sprinkler system regularly by adjusting sprinkler heads, repairing leaks and monitoring pressure


According the the EPA’s WaterSense website, adopting water–savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending our communities’ water supplies, especially during peak use. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers/distributors, and utilities to bring high-performing, water-efficient products to the marketplace. WaterSense also partners with professional certifying organizations to promote water–efficient landscape irrigation practices. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a total of 1.5 trillion gallons of water, resulting in more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bill savings.

Smart Ideas

Since July is the peak month for water consumption, the national Smart Irrigation campaign is encouraging industrial firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies, as well.   Here are some of the many  “Smart Ideas” to promote the national campaign that are listed on the Irrigation Association website:

  • SIM_LogoAdd the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your web site, ads, customer presentations, field signs, invoices and more.
  • Submit a press release or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Ask employees to add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to their e-mail signature block.
  • Hand out Smart Irrigation Month bumper stickers at your next contractor meeting.
  • Host a live demonstration of water-saving irrigation technologies, in the field or at your location.
  • Feature water-efficient products and services in displays, ads, promotions and product demos with the Smart Irrigation Month logo.
  • Use a banner, outside signage or counter sign to encourage customers to ask about how smart irrigation can save water and money.
  • Smart Irrigation Controller RebateMake smart irrigation the theme of sales calls.
  • Stick a Smart Irrigation Month label on every box that goes out the door.
  • Give awards to customers and/or business partners who promote water-efficient practices.
  • Volunteer to speak to a local homeowner association, garden club or civic group.
  • Distribute copies of the Smart Irrigation Month coloring book at a farmers market or county fair.
  • Ask your local radio station to play a public service announcement, promoting July as Smart Irrigation Month.

What are YOU doing to promote Smart Irrigation Month?  Remember…Every Drop Counts!


Irrigation Association,

EPA WaterSense,



Ohio CENTS Show Offers Irrigation Training Classes

Here is the schedule of irrigation training classes at the 2016 Cents Show In Columbus, Ohio January 11-13

The 2016 CENTS Show offers seven technical irrigation training classes at this year’s show. From water conservation to trouble shooting irrigation controllers, the CENTS Show has an extensive list of irrigation classes.

Below is a list of the training classes being offered

Click here for the complete schedule

Water Conservation and Cost Savings

11 Jan 2016
10:30 am – 11:30 am
Scott Knowles

Scott KnowlesSaving water is a hot topic in many drought stressed parts of the nation. Lack of water is a very good reason irrigation systems must monitor and reduce water usage.

Even in the Midwest, where abundant water is more often the issue, owners of irrigation systems want to save the precious resources and money via Smart irrigation practices.

The Irrigation Association is leading the way to help consumers and green industry professionals understand water conservation. Smart Irrigation is a slogan and a category of vitally useful products and practices that can save 35-40% of the water “normal” irrigation systems and practices use.

Come learn to use Smart Irrigation practices and products as a money-making opportunity that provides your clients cost reduction and environmental benefits.

Sponsored by: The Wolf Creek Company

2016 Landscape & Irrigation Industry Trends

Capture the Growth

Tom Barrett PortraitTom Barrett will keynote the Ohio Irrigation Association’s Annual Meeting.

6:00 pm, Monday, January 11, 2016 – at the Ohio Irrigation Association’s Annual Meeting

Well known throughout the landscape industry, Tom Barrett,  has a reputation of being an innovator and accomplished corporate growth and change agent.Tom’s presentations empower people to become masters of change, rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformative thinking.

Sponsored by: Hunter, Rain Bird & Toro

Irrigation Pipe Connections

12 Jan 2016 12:30 pm – 1:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

How to make the common pipe connections for a landscape irrigation system.  Most consider pipe connections simple and easy, but there are some things to know to make long lasting connections that won’t fail in the future.  We’ll cover the tips to successfully make common pipe connections.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Controller Repair

12 Jan 2016 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

When my irrigation won’t come on where do I start looking for the problem? Is it the controller? Are the stations off, run times off or is there a mechanical problem?

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

Making Irrigation Wire Splices

13 Jan 2016 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Wire connections tend to be the most common electrical problem for a landscape irrigation system.  Several  easy and inexpensive wire connectors exist to help contractor make good field wire splices.  We’ll examine the most common and show how to use them.  Will also talk about the Best Practices to make a good wire connection.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Hydraulics (Tues)

12 Jan 2016 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Why do some stations come on and others do not? Is there a hydraulic problem or an electrical problem? Learn the difference in open and closed valves.

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

Irrigation Wire Path Diagnostics

11 Jan 2016 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

How to quickly determine the nature of irrigation field wire problems using a multi-meter at the controller will be demonstrated.  A time saving method to find out what issues are present on the field wiring before hunting for issues around the property.  Participants will receive a chart of possible problems and shown how to use a multi-meter to with the chart.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Hydraulics (Mon)

11 Jan 2016 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Why do some stations come on and others do not? Is there a hydraulic problem or an electrical problem? Learn the difference in open and closed valves.

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

Irrigation Training at the 2015 CENTS Show

Diving into Irrigation Installation

 Scott Knowles, The Wolf Creek Company

Scott Knowles, Wolf Creek Company

Tuesday, January 6 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Ahlum & Arbor Tree Preservation
1740 Walcutt Road
Columbus, OH 43228

This intensive day-long workshop will provide classroom discussion combined with hands-on exercises so participants gain live experience on the process, steps and basic skills needed to complete the successful installation of a landscape irrigation system.

Participants will get to see and learn from real-time demonstrations of: solvent welding PVC pipe and fittings, the process for making proper threaded connections, joining poly pipe, building valve manifolds, attaching sprinklers, making good wire connections, wiring controllers, and basic controller programming.

We’ll stop just short of digging, so you’ll gain an understanding of the full range of installation skills, tips and best practice techniques from onsite preparation to the end goal of flowing water.

(Sponsored by Ahlum & Arbor Tree Preservation)

Register with the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association


Irrigation Service Technicians:
Training Intensive & Test Preparation

John Newlin Portrait
 John Newlin, Quality Services

John Newlin, Quality Services

Thursday, January 8. Part 1 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. Part 2 from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Location: The Greater Columbus Convention Center

This intensive two part training prepares technicians to: install, test, troubleshoot, diagnose, service and repair commercial and residential systems and provides a review of the components of the Irrigation Association’s Certified Irrigation Technician exam.

You’ll learn how-to review the plan, allocate equipment & material for the jobsite preparation, and review best practices for site preparation that include: locating utilities, flagging the job, checking water pressure and testing existing components.

The instruction includes training on pipe gluing, head installation, diagnostics and troubleshooting of electrical and water elements.

John will review OSHA requirements and safety processes that should be implemented to support the team with preparation, equipment maintenance and on the jobsite.

Register with the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association

What is an Irrigation Audit?

by Tom Barrett

Saving Water in the Landscape is Precisely What an Irrigation Audit is All About

 Water Conservation

An irrigation audit is a process that develops the maximum efficiency possible from an installed iLawn Sprinklerrrigation system.  Simply, an irrigation audit saves water.  How much water can be saved with irrigation system audit?  In many cases, after an audit, a landscape will use forty to sixty per cent less water than before the irrigation audit was completed.  Can you image saving over fifty percent of the water used in a landscape? This is a lot of water to save.

Saving water in the landscape is precisely what an irrigation audit is all about. Besides conserving water, an irrigation audit reduces fertilizer usage and water runoff. The net result is a better looking landscape. There are fewer wet or dry spots. The landscape thrives when properly irrigated.

It takes a trained professional, knowledgeable in irrigation and the audit process, to develop an effective irrigation audit. There are three steps in developing an irrigation system audit.  Step one is testing the system to be certain all the irrigation system components function properly.  Often, significant water savings are achieved by simply fixing and adjusting the existing irrigation system. The second step is to field test each zone of the irrigation system. Each irrigation zone is operated. The precipitation rate and efficiency of each irrigation zone is collected under actual operational conditions.  The final step in an irrigation audit is to calculate irrigation schedules that are based on plant type, soil conditions, weather patterns, and field test results.

Step One – Test the System

Irrigation Audit Catch Can

The first step in the irrigation system audit is to test the system. During this process the irrigation auditor will make sure all the components of the irrigation system function properly.  A site inspection worksheet is used to record the data. The following components are inspected and tested:

  1. Static Pressure – Test the static pressure of the irrigation system.
  2. Backflow Test – Pressure test the backflow preventer. On commercial buildings the backflow preventer is usually a reduced pressure principle backflow device.  On small commercial and many residential systems the backflow preventer maybe an atmospheric backflow preventer or an atmospheric backflow preventer.  It is important that a trained, professional test the backflow preventer for proper operation.
  3. Zone Test – Operate each station or control zone on the controller.  Visually inspect every sprinkler head to determine if the arc is properly adjusted and the proper nozzle is installed.  Additionally, inspect the sprinkler heads for clogging, leaking seals, missing sprinkler heads, tilted sprinkler heads. Finally inspect the sprinkler to insure that the landscape has not overgrown and is deflecting the spray pattern.  Also, look for sunken sprinkler heads.
  4. Controller Test – Record all current controller or timer settings.  The manufacturer, model, and location of the controller are noted on the site inspection worksheet. The current irrigation schedule is recorded.  The current irrigation watering schedule will be used to determine the amount of water savings achieved after the audit is completed.

Step Two – Irrigation System Field TestIrrigation Audit Image

The purpose of the irrigation system field test is to determine the precipitation rate and efficiency of each sprinkler system zone. During the field test, catch cans are systematically placed, in a grid pattern, throughout the landscape.

Catch cans are specialized water collection devices.  Each station or zone is operated for a specified time.  Usually each station or zone is tested separately. The water collected in the catch cans are measured and recorded.

The precipitation rate of each zone is calculated by measuring the average amount of water collected in each catch can.  The efficiency of the zone is calculated by measuring the variance of the water collected in each catch can.  The smaller the variance between catch can results the more efficient the irrigation system is.  Ideally, a properly installed irrigation system is between 65% to 75% efficient.

Last year we announced a  the release of the first electronic, hand-held catch can reader for irrigation audits. Click Here for more information

Step Three – Creating an Irrigation Schedule

Calculating the irrigation schedule, based upon the actual field information, is where sustainable water savings occur. In calculating the base irrigation schedule the following factors are used to create the most efficient irrigation schedule possible:


Evapotranspiration is the amount of water used by a landscape.  Evapotranspiration is the water loss in the landscape due to evaporation and the water used by plants in transpiration. Evapotranspiration varies by geographic location, seasonal weather patterns, plant material, local site conditions, and soil type.


The type of soil effects the amount of water that can be stored in the soil.  Sandy soils will hold less water than clay soils.  The infiltration or percolation rate will vary by soil type.  The infiltration or percolation rate is how fast a soil type can absorb water.  This will vary based upon soil texture, structure, degree of compaction, and slope.

Plant Materials

Different plants have different water use requirements and different rooting depths.  The size, age, and location of the plants all effect water usage.  Location, exposure, and the active root zone depth all effect plant water usage and must be considered when creating the base irrigation schedules.


The information developed in the Irrigation System Field Test is used to determine how long each zone needs to operate to apply the correct amount of water.  The more efficient the irrigation zone the less time the zone needs to apply water.  Lower precipitation rates will result in longer run times and potentially less water runoff.

Baseline ScheduleGolf Course Catch Can Test

A baseline irrigation schedule is then developed for each irrigation zone. The landscape water requirement is adjusted based upon the efficiency of the irrigation system as determined by the field test information.   The soil type is used to determine how much water to apply.  Additionally, since most sprinkler systems can apply water faster than the soil can absorb water, a maximum run time is developed for each irrigation zone.  This prevents water from running off the landscape.  The soil and root depth determine how long to run a zone. The amount of time between irrigation cycles is also determined by the soil type and rooting depth.  Allowing the water to soak into the soil to the proper root zone depth without saturating the soil for long periods of time is an important feature of an irrigation audit.  Most irrigation systems will never reach this level of efficiency without an irrigation audit.

The objective of a great irrigation schedule is to apply the correct amount of water necessary for the optimal growth of the plants in the landscape.  When properly developed, this prevents over and under watering the landscape.  When the irrigation schedule is not properly developed, shallow rooting occurs with short frequent irrigation cycles or run off occurs when water is applied faster than the soil can absorb the water.

Finally, after the base schedule is developed, the irrigation zone run times are adjusted for seasonality.  Additional adjustments are made throughout the season based on visual inspection to compensate for local factors.

Irrigation audits are an essential part of any water conservation program.  An irrigation audit is a very sophisticated process used to create an optimized irrigation schedule.  Most irrigation systems apply more water than needed to maintain a healthy landscape.  The savings in water is worth the time and expense of an irrigation audit.

Irrigation Association Landscape Irrigation Auditor Seal

The Irrigation Association

An irrigation system audit is a complex process and requires the services of a trained expert.  The Irrigation Association’s internationally recognized Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA) program and examination is widely acknowledged as the industry standard.  To learn more about the Irrigation Association, the Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor program, and the other irrigation industry certifications contact them at:

Irrigation Association

6540 Arlington Boulevard

Falls Church, Virginia 22042-6638  USA

(703) 536-7080
(703) 536-7019 fax

Click here to email


Author’s Biography

Tom Barrett PortraitTom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth and change agent with over thirty years of industry experience.  Tom is the owner of Green Water Infrastructure. Green Water Infrastructure is a consulting company that integrates water resources for sustainable site development. Tom’s leadership experience, holding executive level positions, drives corporate revenue growth through change and innovation for business start-up’s, corporate expansions, and divisional turnarounds.  Tom has been delivering dynamic presentations and training for over twenty years.  These presentations empower people to become masters of change rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformative thinking.

Tom can be reached at Green Water Infrastructure, Inc., 317-565-9964 or Click Here to Email

Surviving Drought in the Landscape

By Tom Barrett

Drought! It’s do or die time for your landscape. Landscapes are one of the most valuable components of a property. Not only do landscapes make our physical environment more attractive, they can be as transforming as a fresh coat of paint on a house. More importantly, landscapes are critical to remediating our environment. Trees, shrubs, perennial, annuals and turfgrass all help to clean our air and create the oxygen we need to breathe. Preserving a landscape during a severe drought can be one of the most challenging crisis in the landscape industry. Recovering from a severe drought is frustrating to say the least. Implementing a comprehensive strategy to restore the balance of the landscape is vital to the soil and the industry.

SoilPreparation – It all starts with the soil

The soil is the lifeblood of the landscape. Soil, when properly maintained, encourages deep roots. During a drought, plant roots, the storehouse of plant carbohydrates, are the survival mechanism of the plant. Too often good soil management practices are completely overlooked in landscape management. We pay too much attention to the leaves of a plant and not enough attention to what is going on below. The foundation of any living system is in the roots.

Preparation for a drought starts with good cultural practices in the soil. Good soil aeration combined with proper fertilization encourages deep rooting. Plants will have greater success in withstanding the devastating effects of a drought if their root system has been cultivated to grow a deeper, more extensive root system.

Good soil preparation is not reserved for new landscape installations. Soil cultural practices, like aeration can be performed at anytime. Spring time is best because for most plant material spring is when a plant’s root development is most active.

Soil fertility and salinity or the amount of salt found in the soil, are important. In the spring, it is important to get a soil sample and have it tested at a soil lab. Once results have been analyzed, correcting any nutrient deficiency is the first step.

For turfgrass a spring aeration is essential to encourage deep rooted turf. Ideally, turfgrass should have rooting depths of 6 to 12 inches. For trees and shrubs, drilling several holes 2 to 4 inches in diameter, 24 to 36 inches deep around the base of the plant will encourage deeper water penetration and deeper rooting.

Filling the holes with compost will encourage healthy soil mirco-biological activity.

Mow turfgrass higher and be careful about applying too much nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen encourages top-growth of grasses at the expense of developing a strong root system.

Deep infrequent irrigation cycles also encourage deeper rooting. Mulch, properly placed around trees and shrubs also helps to preserve soil moisture.

Wilted Gerbera FlowerWilt – It is all about Water Management

When a drought happens it is important to have a plan and priority. Trees come first. Trees are expensive to replace. The loss of a the shade from a tree will increase the evaporative water losses in the surrounding area.

After establishing a healthy root system, pay close attention to the leaves of all plants. The leaves are the best indicator of a plant’s water need. When turfgrass starts to turn bluish-green it is time to add water. The wilt symptoms of many trees and shrubs will exhibit leaf folding. Sometimes the leaf folding will also display a slight change in color.

Do not fertilize during a drought. All fertilizers contain salts that will rob the plants of any moisture in the soil. Avoid fertilizing the plants until they have recovered. Fertilizing after a severe drought will usually increase leaf and stem growth at the expense of root development.

Do not prune during or immediately following a drought.

Apply water slowly and deeply to the soil. Reduce evaporative water losses by watering after the sun goes down.

Most importantly, physically check the moisture level of the soil. The soil may look dry on the surface, however with a soil probe or a six inch screwdriver stuck into the ground you can accurately determine how deep and how dry the soil may be.

Water Fall

Recovery – Water, Water, Water
Recovering trees, shrubs, and turfgrass after an extended drought is different for each type of plant. Water, water, water is the key to successful recovery, however the proper watering cycle for each type of plant is different. Monitoring the soil water level during the process will help insure a more successful recovery.

Trees require deep infrequent watering. Gently soaking the soil to a depth of 36 to 48 inches is important. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. It is critical to avoid light frequent waterings that will only penetrate the soil to a depth of a few inches. This will result in shallow roots.

For shrubs watering to a depth of 18 to 24 inches is important. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

Recovering turfgrass is the most demanding watering regimen.  Initially, light frequent waterings are important.  Continuously monitor the soil moisture level with a probe or a screwdriver. Once the turf has started to recover a deeper less frequent watering schedule can be resumed.

After severe water stress all plants types slow in growth because their metabolism has been significantly reduced for survival. The water initially applied will be slowly absorbed by the plant. Water absorption by the plant will be dramatically reduced until the plant starts to become healthy again. Once the plant material starts to regain its health, it will rapidly use water.

Understanding how a plant recovers from severe water stress is vital to recovery. Nutritional and watering needs vary widely from plant to plant and from location to location. Careful soil monitoring is key to returning plants to a healthy balance following a severe drought.

In nature drought is natural part of the environment. Most native and well established plants can withstand a considerable period of time without rain. Maintaining and protecting landscapes during a drought is worth the effort when compared to the cost and time required to reestablish a landscape. The best defense against drought is a strong offense. That offense starts with a solid plan, good preparation, and the desire to work with nature to restore the balance she intended.

Note: This article originally appeared in Landscape Management






EPA WaterSense Partner Forum – Improving Irrigation Efficiency, Thursday, May 3rd from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Join us to learn more!

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The WaterSense program invites you to its next Partner Forum on Thursday, May 3, 2012, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time to learn about strategies for reducing outdoor water use and improving irrigation efficiency.

You will hear from WaterSense promotional and irrigation partners about effective approaches to reducing outdoor water use and exciting opportunities for collaboration on outdoor water-efficiency initiatives. We will spotlight a tool to help landscape professionals sell water-efficient irrigation and landscaping practices to potential customers, a successful rebate program for weather-based irrigation controllers, and innovative efforts to install water-efficient irrigation systems. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Muelrath, City of Santa Rosa, California
  • Gary Tilkian, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • Chris Curry, Sweeney & Associates, Inc., WaterSense 2011 Irrigation Partner of the Year

Click here to register for this webinar. If you have any questions, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at or (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367).

We look forward to speaking with you on the call!


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Welcome Sean Mullarkey, Owner of Tri State Water Works

The Ohio Irrigation Association welcomes Sean Mullarkey, owner of Tri State Water Works, as our newest member. Tri Sate Water Works is located in Cincinnati and is servicing landscape irrigation & lighting systems in the Greater Cincinnati area and Northern Kentucky.

Although new to our association, Sean is no neophyte to the landscape and irrigation industry. In fact, Sean has spent almost twenty-five years in our industry. Sean holds four prestigious certifications from the Irrigation Association:

— Certified Irrgation Designer

— Certified Irrigation Contractor

— Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor

— Certified Golf Course Irrigation Auditior

Tri State Water Works was started by Sean because there is a big need for quality irrigation services with a water conservation approach. Getting a landscape irrigation system functioning properly creating the greatest water savings possible is the mission of Tri State Water Works.

Sean Mullarkey Image

Sean Mullarkey, President of Tri State Water Works, Cincinnati, Ohio

“Replacing older, inefficient spray landscape irrigation systems with high efficiency drip irrigation can save, literally, thousands of gallons of water that is otherwise wasted,” says Mullarkey. ” Newer technology like weather-based control systems can increase those water savings further. Additionally, alternate water sources, like rain water harvesting, can completely eliminate the use of potable water for landscape irrigation.”

Landscape irrigation is serious business for Sean Mullarkey and Tri State Water Works. The company is offering the following services:

  • Irrigation System Design
  • Specifiations Advocation
  • Irrigation System Inspection Services
Sean has been working on landscape irrigation systems since 1988 when he was the owner of Shamrock Landscapes. Shamrock was sold to Natorps where Sean worked as a landscape designer. Sean earned a certification in landscape horticulture from Ohio State University.


Our Mission Statement:

  • Water is a precious resource that should be conserved for current and future generations; water is the source of life, we will respect it as such.
  • We will give back to the community through education and charitable acts to make a difference in the environment.
  • We will embrace technology, while always providing our customers no nonsense service with prompt, clear and truthful communications.

Prior to starting Tri State Water Works, Sean worked as a territory manager for Wolf Creek Company. Sean and his wife, Denise, live in Cincinnati and have two growing children – Christopher is thirteen and Malachi is eleven. Sean, a big advocate of education, is an adjunct instructor in irrigation at Cincinnati State.

Irrigation 101 Class at the CENTS Show a Huge Success

Irrigation System SplashBy Scott Knowles, President, Wolf Creek Company

Irrigation Class for Future Irrigation Contractors

On a chilly Sunday morning January 22nd, Scott Knowles, president of the Wolf Creek Company,  and John Newlin, owner of  Quality Sprinkler Systems in Lorraine, Ohio, taught a group of twenty-three participants the basics of landscape irrigation installation at the Ohio Nurserymen & Landscape Association Short Courses.  The Ohio Irrigation Association was well represented as our members, Scott and John, lead the students through the process of how to install a landscape irrigation system.

Participants actually constructed a working landscape irrigation system.

Being winter, the irrigation system was constructed in one of the Ohio State campus green houses.  The system consisted of rotor, spray head, and drip zones.  The valves were wired to a controller and they even installed a booster pump!  “This is the phase where it comes together for people”, said Scott. After installation students were shown how to adjust sprinklers and some tips and tricks to finish the job.

Denise Johnson, a leader in the Ohio State University landscape program, requested the class be part of the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association’s  Short Courses because of member demand.  Due to material, space, and coordination the class size was capped at 20, although Denise let a couple extra in but turned away a few others. “I enjoyed sharing my lifetime experience to help others” said John Newlin.  John also reported that several students approached him the next day on the CENTS trade show floor to compliment him for the class.  Scott Knowles says all the evaluations came back with glowing remarks.  Denise was very happy with the results.Ohio State Greenhouse

Scott organized the event with Denise and arranged for the materials to be on hand.  It was a team teaching effort with knowledge and the wealth of experience these two irrigators have being shared in presentations and lots of questions and discussions.  The most exciting part was the hands on work.  Students practiced gluing pipe, connecting wires, etc before the final project, building a functioning irrigation system!

This is the second successful year of  the Ohio Irrigation Association partnering with the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Short Course program.  Last year Scott Knowles and John Newlin conducted an Irrigation Association Landscape Irrigation Auditor program to another full house.  Denise has already asked that we do a class again at the 2013 show.

“I enjoyed sharing my lifetime experience to help others” said John Newlin.  John also reported that several students approached him the next day on the CENTS trade show floor to compliment him for the class.  Scott says the evals all came back with glowing remarks.  Denise was very happy with the results.

Ohio Irrigation Association Announces a Partnership with the Irrigation Association

Irrigation Association Logo

The Irrigation Association and the Ohio Irrigation Association are pleased to announce a collaborative partnership agreement that reaches beyond traditional scope the Irrigation Association’s Affiliate Organization structure.

Traditionally, the Irrigation Association works with regional, state and international irrigation and green industry associations for the benefit of their respective memberships.

The Irrigation Association partners with our affiliate organizations to:

  • Improve industry proficiency and professionalism.
  • Define best practices for effective water management.
  • Promote efficient irrigation and sound water management.
  • Influence public policy at the local, state, regional and national level.

“This initiative is very important to us,” says Deborah M. Hamlin, Irrigation Association executive director. “Each organization will benefit from the assistance provided by the other to achieve similar goals – enhanced product and service provision to those in the irrigation industry.”

This new agreement promises to a be significant step in developing a proactive collaborative process that enhances the effectiveness of both organizations. The memorandum of understanding was signed on February 21, 2012 by John Dolle, President of the Ohio Irrigation Association and Deborah Hamlin CAE, Executive Director of the Irrigation Association.

Under this agreement, the members of the Ohio Irrigation Association stand to benefit from an increased level of communications between the two organization. The new level of communication will provide the following benefits:

  • Insight into primary interests and concern’s of the respective memberships of both organizations.
  • Joint marketing efforts design to promote professionalism and water saving within the irrigation industry.
  • Frequent and collaborative communication design to promote membership and participation in both organizations.

“We look forward to working with the Irrigation Association to further advance our membership opportunities,” said John Dolle, President of the Ohio Irrigation Association. “Membership in the Ohio Irrigation Association is a great way to showcase irrigation education, meetings, standards, professionals and the outlook of the irrigation industry.”

As part of this agreement, the Irrigation Association will work in concert with Ohio Irrigation Association to offer support for their membership marketing efforts, while OIA will help IA promote key events such as the Irrigation Show to its membership.

To learn more about this partnership or to become a partner, contact IA Membership Manager Marcia Cram.

About the Irrigation Association

The Irrigation Association (IA) is the leading membership organization for irrigation companies and professionals. Together with thier members, the Irrigation Association is committed to promoting efficient irrigation and to long-term sustainability of water resources for future generations. The Irrigation Association works to improve industry proficiency, advocate sound water management, and grow demand for water-efficient products and services. For more information visit

About the Ohio Irrigation Association

The Ohio Irrigation Association (OIA) was founded with the goal of irrigation professionals coming together from all over this great state in hopes of improving landscape irrigation standards in Ohio. The Ohio Irrigation Association offers educational events and technical information to raise the level of professionalism within the landscape irrigation industry. For more information, visit