I walk my dogs at night, and twice this week we’ve discovered troubling new additions to our neighborhood landscaping.
It starts when I hear an unusual sound, an undercurrent loud enough to penetrate my podcast-filled earphones. When I pause, my dogs get curious and hunt it down. It’s a pleasant sound actually, a spilling, gurgling sound. Has someone installed a fountain? I pull out the poop flashlight to investigate. As we get closer, it seems way too loud for a fountain, and what’s all this water in the gutter? Closer, closer… found! A broken sprinkler head, spurting gallons and gallons and gallons of water in front of a dark and sleeping or empty house.
Unless you have a private water well, chances are your water has substantial embodied energy; residential water is pumped, pressurized, sanitized, and stored on its way to our homes. Water transport is particularly energy intensive here in the West, but few areas are immune. Water is energy is greenhouse gas.
So here’s an Earth Day conservation tip. Sprinklers suffer plenty of abuse over the winter – heads get knocked off, springtime roots push them out of alignment, debris clogs them up. So before you fire up your automatic sprinklers after their winter hibernation, turn them on in the daytime, all of them, and watch their spray. Make sure they’re all in working order and spraying only the areas you need to spray. Then set them for nighttime or early morning watering. And please, turn them off again if the rains return.
Need an Earth Day project? Consider replacing some or all of your sprinklers with bubblers or drip irrigation. Is your lawn strictly ornamental? Consider replacing it with a less water-intensive garden. In an area with summertime rain? Maybe a rainwater collection cistern would be useful for your handwatering needs.