2. Planning an Efficient Irrigation System

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An irrigation system can be tricky to design and install, even with experience. Many local nurseries and building supply centers offer design services or classes to help you design your own. In a water-efficient yard, sprinklers are used to irrigate turf areas, which are potentially the most water-intensive part of your landscape, while drip irrigation systems are recommended for trees, shrubs and flowers. Be sure to plan your irrigation system based on water zones.

You can purchase drip emitters with varying flow rates and specialized heads for flower beds, ground covers and gardens. Since drip systems give plants, shrubs and trees the water they need without waste, you'll save time, water and money when you design your system with an appropriate amount of drip irrigation.

Whether you're using spray, rotor or impulse-type sprinklers for turf, make sure to provide sufficient overlap in your design. Check the manufacturer's instructions for suggested overlap distances. Also, be careful not to locate sprinkler heads behind trees or objects which might impede the spray and deprive your lawn of valuable water.

Many landscapes require a change in the grade or slope of the yard. Make sure level surfaces are graded with a slight slope so they will drain away from your home's foundation. You can also create slopes that feed drainage to plants. If you've added berms or terraces, consider installing your irrigation lines before bringing in additional materials since the irrigation system trench depth will be more uniform when dug through a level surface. If you're planting the sloping sides of a berm or terrace, the grade of the slope must not exceed three feet of run for every one foot of rise (3:1).

If you have an old or galvanized pipe system, you may want to replace it with plastic PVC pipe. Galvanized pipe can slowly plug up, rust and corrode, leading to a leaky system.

Whether you're installing an irrigation system in a new yard or modifying one in an existing landscape, you can save money by doing most of the work yourself. However, consider your time schedule and mechanical abilities before you jump in—you may find that you'll get it done quicker and with fewer headaches by calling a Nevada licensed landscape contractor to do it for you.

You'll need to perform some maintenance annually and throughout the irrigation season to keep your system operating efficiently. Visit our Maintenance section for more information.

Install a backflow prevention assembly to protect your water quality.

Next Step: Plant Selection