CNGA LooseLeaf April/May19

14 colorad o LooseLeaf April/May 2019 Design Trends I N WAT E R C O N S E RVAT I O N By Hunter White General Manager Landwise Landscape Architecture, Construction & Management Conservation of water has always been a major part of life in the arid West, in order to survive with the resources given by the natural world. In modern times, the creation of lakes, reservoirs and municipal water supplies has put that ancient practice far from people’s minds. However, the rapidly growing population of the Front Range has brought us back to those times when the need to conserve water is at the forefront of the minds of today’s farmers, planners and developers. With the renewed need and interest in water conservation come fresh ideas and products to usher us into a new era of smart water use. Smarter Irrigation There are many opportunities for water conservation in the home and commercial irrigation system. The technological aspects of smart irrigation have grown immensely over the past decades with the advent of home weather stations, rain sensors and soil moisture sensors to regulate the irrigation system. Perhaps the most important aspect of the system is the watering schedule. If it is set to water more than is needed, any irrigation system can waste water. The following are methods and technologies to reduce water use and are available for any size project: 1. Weather-based controllers read weather data from local stations to regulate the irrigation system. 2. Sensor-based controllers read real-time data from rain sensors or soil moisture probes to regulate the system. 3. High-efficiency nozzles can reduce water use by lowering the precipitation rate and regulating pressure. 4. Drip irrigation (nothing new, but still very important) can exceed 90 percent efficiency whereas sprinkler systems are 50 to 70 percent efficient, and is so efficient that many water utilities exempt landscapes irrigated with drip from restrictions during drought, according to the CSU Extension website. Rainwater Collection With declining annual precipitation in the West, Colorado is predicted to experience an even hotter, drier climate in the future. It seems a good time to learn how to collect rainwater efficiently. 1. Rain barrels can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and designs. Some have planters incorporated into the top, but most should have a hose bib connection at the bottom. Creative innovators have repurposed a wide variety of containers for rain barrels as well. 2. Cisterns can be located above or below ground and are generally used to store larger amounts of water than needed by the typical homeowner. They can be used on ranches or farms for watering crops or livestock. 3. Rain gardens are used as a way to channel rainwater to a portion of the landscape where it is allowed to percolate back into the soil and recharge the local ground water aquifers. Many beautiful landscape plants will thrive in this ebb and flow environment. Native Plants Native plants have been not just surviving, but thriving in the arid West for hundreds of years. Most species have spectacularly blooming flowers that attract any number of local beneficial pollinators. Many western growers have begun offering a variety of native mixed turf grasses as a means to conserve water while maintaining a family-friendly lawn area. Native plants also provide valuable habitat for local birds and insects, reduce storm water runoff, and reduce annual landscape maintenance. Sources for information on native plants: 1. CSU Extension 2. Colorado Native Plant Society 3. Local nurseries