News

Who’ll stop the rain?

Noah knew the answer to that one…

But here is a more practical question today for Bergen County homeowners waiting for spring to arrive-

Who’ll stop the Sprinklers?  Most folks have seen a picture similar to the one shown here:

irrigationduringrain

Yes it is quite a waste and believe it or not, it is easily preventable! 

How does a rain sensor work? (Click for a musical interlude)

Most rain-sensing devices work by accumulating a set amount of rainfall before a switch is activated that interrupts the circuit from the controller and shuts off the system. In that “accumulation time”, the system will unnecessarily continue to water. This can look especially bad for conservation-conscious municipalities, businesses, and residences. With built-in Quick Response technology, the Hunter Rain-Clik and Wireless Rain-Clik can command a controller to shut off right when it starts to rain.

pd-sensor_rain-clik-h2972  The HUNTER Rain-Clik can be mounted on an eave or any flat vertical surface like a wall or fence. A gutter mount is also available that allows for easy installation of the Rain-Clik on the edge of a gutter.  At or near the roof is the preferred location to install a rain sensor but it will require you or your irrigaiton contractor to get on a ladder.

PLEASE NOTE- this device will not work unless it is open to the sky.  It needs to receive both rainfall and sunlight to function properly.  It can’t be under the overhang of the roof or a nearby tree.  For best results it shouldn’t even be mounted on the wall unless it is high enough up to be above any surrounding shrubs.  Avoid the shady side of the building when possible.

  • Maintenance-free design with 10-year battery life for Wireless Rain-Clik
  • Wireless unit available with 800 ft. range from wireless sensor to receiver
  • Warranty period: 5 years (10 year battery warranty for wireless model)
  • Compatible with most controllers

A rain sensing shut-off switch like the one shown above is an inexpensive ($75 -$150 installed) and automatic way to avoid watering your lawn during a rainstorm (and perhaps, dirty looks from the neighbors)!

Next- let’s kick it up a notch with a soil moisture sensor!

 

Let the sun shine!

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Like The Fifth Dimension said- let it shine… on your lawn!  No need to listen to the weatherman or flip a coin to decide whether or not to water.  The sensor pictured above measures both rainfall and temperature.  If it is sunny and warm, it will automatically increase the watering times for your next scheduled irrigation.  If it is cloudy and cool, it will decrease the amount automatically.  If you already have a residential HUNTER irrigation controller installed you are halfway there.  Just have your irrigation contractor install the Hunter SolarSync module.   This Smart Controller is a great value for residential applications.  It is a mixture of technology and simplicity at an affordable price.  The settings are adjustable and can be customized for the microclimate on your own property.

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July is Smart Irrigation Month!

Smart Irrigation Systems

If you’re a typical homeowner, you probably put your automatic sprinkler system into the same category as your home’s heating and cooling system. You expect it to work reliably and efficiently with minimum fuss. The latest technology offers just that — and more.

Automated irrigation systems offer convenience while protecting your landscape investment. A well-maintained system keeps your lawn and landscape beautiful and healthy, while minimizing water waste.

IAlogo To raise awareness of the benefits of efficient watering practices, the Irrigation Association has named July Smart Irrigation Month. Make time this summer to be sure you’re getting the most out of your irrigation system, while keeping utility bills low and helping to protect the environment.

For a healthy, drought- and stress-tolerant lawn and landscape, use less water.

Adopting water-savvy drought-infographichabits also is essential to maintaining and extending your community’s water supply, especially during peak use.

Water-efficient habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water and saving money.

With some simple practices and new technology, existing irrigation systems can be made more efficient—
lowering your water bill, reducing runoff, and saving water.

Read what the EPA’s WaterSense program says about- How much water is too much

turn on the water, but first…

Spring has arrived! The onset of warmer weather can lead to an increase in landscape irrigation. Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

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Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

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 Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, go with a pro—find an irrigation professional certified by a WaterSense labeled irrigation program to do the work for you.

 Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

 Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Graphics & text courtesy of EPA WaterSense

ET phone home

220px-ET_Communicator_Cropped– Do you recognize this conglomeration of parts?  In the movie a coffee can, some tin foil and wire are transformed into a “functional” phone.  If such a notion piques your curiosity, feel free to read on…

How Much Water Does Your Lawn Need?

This version of ET is EvapoTranspiration (the sum of evaporation from the land surface plus transpiration from plants. Credit: Salinity Management Guide)

It is the way that science figures out the answer to the question above.  We all know that plants need water to survive.  They take it up through their roots- then what?  Eventually, it is released as water vapor through pores on the underside of the leaves.  So, the amount of water that plants lose is exactly how much they need to replace in order to stay healthy.

Factors affecting ET:

Temperature: Transpiration rates go up as the temperature goes up, especially during the growing season.
Relative humidity: As the relative humidity of the air surrounding the plant rises the transpiration rate falls. It is easier for water to evaporate into dryer air than into more saturated air.
Wind and air movement: Increased movement of the air around a plant will result in a higher transpiration rate.
Soil-moisture availability: When moisture is lacking, plants can begin to senesce (premature ageing, which can result in leaf loss) and transpire less water.
Type of plant: Plants transpire water at different rates. Some plants which grow in arid regions, such as cacti and succulents, conserve precious water by transpiring less water than other plants.

It is estimated that about 10 percent of the moisture found in the atmosphere is released by plants through transpiration.  Plant transpiration is an invisible process—since the water is evaporating from the leaf surfaces, you don’t just go out and see the leaves “breathing”. During a growing season, a leaf will transpire many times more water than its own weight. A large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons (151,000 liters) per year.  (USGS- The Water Cycle)

When to water

 UW Banner

United Water has a seasonal lawn watering program which can help maintain healthy yards without wasting water.  All you have to do is check the daily ET number  from May to September, when the program is in effect! Then you will know exactly the amount of water that your lawn needs on that day.  You may be surprised how infrequently we really need to water!     

Continue reading ET phone home

What is Backflow?

ASSE logo defines backflow as:

The potentially dangerous reversal of the flow of water from its intended direction in any pipeline or plumbing system. A cross-connection is a physical connection between two separate piping systems; one containing potable water and the other containing water of questionable safety. Backflow can allow drinking water in plumbing systems to become contaminated and unusable.

ASSE backflow
What are backflow preventers?
Backflow preventers are mechanical plumbing devices and assemblies installed in plumbing systems to prevent water from flowing backward in the system. A properly tested and maintained backflow preventer can reliably prevent water of an unknown quality from contaminating a community’s water system.

Winds in the East…

In the opening scene of Mary Poppins, Bert the chimney sweep recites his weather-related rhyme.  Bert had a premonition, saying ” Can’t put me finger on what lies in store…”  Here in the garden state, thanks to a joint effort of the State Climatologist Office and the Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station, we can rely on the NJ Weather & Climate Networknewsite_0  Weather related stories, forecasts and more.  If you are a gardener, an outdoor enthusiast, or even a chimney sweep, this may be the website to get your news!

Local weather stations, many of them in residential backyards, record and publish timely data on weather conditions and forecasts.   There are over 60 stations in the network.  They are conveniently located on a Google map page on the website.  You can also access your closest weather station by entering your zip code.  450_station

Weather data is measured and updated every 5 minutes- right in our backyards and on the web.  Click here to view the page of the Ramsey weather station.

Chim chim cheree!

Water conservation competition

The National Mayor’s Challenge For Water Conservation:

April 1-30, 2015

My Water Pledge is a friendly competition between cities across the US to see who can be the most “water-wise.” Mayors nationwide will challenge their residents to conserve water energy and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use pledges online.

Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category win. Cities will compete in the following population categories: 5,000-29,999, 30,000-99,999, 100,000-299,999. 300,000-599,999, 600,000+). Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes. By the way, your mayor doesn’t have to participate for your city to win… But every person makes a difference! Last year, the challenge awarded more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 1,000 residents in U.S. cities.

It is sponsored by The Wyland Foundation: a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways, and marine life. The foundation encourages environmental awareness through education programs, public arts projects, and community events.

Visit the MyWaterPledge site to find out more-

antwater

Take the challenge, take the pledge!

Safe drinking water

glass of water

In 1974 the US EPA passed the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA).   Americans were to be guaranteed clean water to drink.  That sounds simple enough.   In reality, it was quite a far-reaching and complicated process.  Who controls the public water?  As of June 25, 1977 (the date that the drinking water standards actually went into effect) there were over 160,000 community and public water drinking systems combined.  Each of these authorities was now required to test the water they supplied and publish the results.

 

 

dirty glass of waterFinally some 3 years after passing the legislation it was determined how drinking water would be tested and who would be responsible to do so.  It was also decided that treatment of water which did not meet the standards would be the primary means of making unsafe water fit to drink.   Unfortunately contamination of our water supply resources was already widespread and, more alarming, outpacing our ability to treat it.  In 1996, significant ammendments were made to the SWDA (see- Understanding the Safe Water Drinking Act).  We needed to clean and protect our rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and underground wells.

 

Protection & Prevention: 

Every state in the union has received authority from the EPA to implement the SWDA:

“States, or US EPA acting as a primacy agent, make sure water systems test for contaminants, review plans for water system improvements, conduct on-site inspections and sanitary surveys, provide training and technical assistance, and take action against water systems not meeting standards.”

water testing

States usually work through public and private water utility providers.  They can require measures to protect the watersheds. They may fine polluters or utilities which fail to maintain water quality. They must also provide a solution to correct conditions which do not meet standards.

Cross connection control and backflow prevention are unfamiliar terms to most people.  To learn why they are important for the protection of our public water supply, click on the following link to: 

AWWA-logo

the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource.

 

 

Zeke the gardener?

Beginning in the 1930s there was a series of learn to read books for kids.  Dick & Jane were 2 of the main characters.  There was also a handyman/gardener named Zeke.zekethegardener

My connection to Zeke came through a dear, now departed friend who on a midsummer afternoon, innocently made a comment that my garden was lovely.   At the end of the ensuing “3 hour tour”, I was jokingly slapped with the moniker.

I have been an avid gardener for over 40 years.  My interest in things green led me into my career.  Beginning as a landscape gardener, I  followed a natural progression to irrigation.  I have designed, installed and serviced “sprinkler systems” of all sizes, from single family homes to sports fields to commercial developments which utilize remotely monitored computer software to assist with scheduling.

It was through our company’s work with the utilization of stormwater for landscape irrigation that I became aware of the overuse and waste of our most precious resource- fresh water.  While here in the Northeast we have abundant rainfall, we have nonetheless experienced periods of drought in the last 20 years which have resulted in restrictions for watering lawns and gardens.  It is apparent that even with average rainfall (in New Jersey we get over 40 inches per year), our need for fresh water is outpacing our ability to store it.  To give an idea of how much free water falls from the sky-  a 1 inch rainstorm falling on an average size roof in a residential neighborhood (25ft x 40ft) will produce 623 gallons of water.  The same rainstorm on a football field will yield over 25,000 gallons (about the same amount that will hit your roof in a year if you live in the Garden State of NJ).  Where is it going and why don’t we have enough?

  • Parking lots, roofs and roads collect rainwater and divert it into storm drains.  These lead into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.  That water never gets to infiltrate down to replenish the underground storage areas (aquifers) which serve as supply to both public and private wells.  These waters also carry along with them everything from lawn fertilizers to road salt and automotive fluids.  The streets may be clean after a spring rain, but the rivers are certainly not.
  • We take showers that are too long.  We run the faucet until the water gets hot enough.  We brush our teeth with the water running.  We wash our driveways instead of sweeping them, etc.
  • We OVER water our lawns.  I can say with the certainty of my “sprinklerman” experience, that popular belief among people who own a lawn watering system is as follows- if the lawn is not green enough to suit you, just water it longer!
  • Leaks in our antiquated water delivery systems waste literally billions of gallons per day of the water which we have paid to collect, store and purify for drinking.   leaky water pipe

 

We do not understand the importance and scarcity of our fresh water supply.

“Of the three percent of the water that is not in the ocean, about 69 percent is locked up in glaciers and icecaps. Ninety percent of that frozen water is in Antarctica and about nine percent covers Greenland.

Of the remaining freshwater, 30 percent of it is groundwater, captured below our feet. About 0.3 percent is found in rivers and lakes. This means that the water source we are most familiar with in our everyday lives, rivers and lakes, accounts for less than one percent of all freshwater that exists on Earth.

A very small percentage of water (0.1 percent of all water) is also found in the atmosphere.” (link from National Ocean Service)

It is my intention to use my blogspace to pass on information and stories that I have gathered about using water wisely in our homes, gardens and industries.

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