In 2005, the Irrigation Association designated July as Smart Irrigation Month. Since then, industry suppliers have developed and introduced many new water-conserving products to the irrigation market. July, being typically the hottest and driest time of the year for most of the United States, is the perfect time for landscape pros to promote these new products to the public.
Drip irrigation, thanks to ongoing system improvements, is one of the fasting growing product categories to keep turf and other landscape plants healthy. Tom Kundrat, a smart irrigation expert for NDS, Inc., shared the following update on drip irrigation.
TURF: What kind of message should contractors share with clients and prospective customers (homeowners, commercial properties, HOAs, etc.) on the benefits of drip?
Kundrat: The two main benefits for contractors to leverage with their customers is water savings and improved plant health. Most drip irrigation systems can reduce water by 50 percent and improve plant health by delivering the water right to the root zone.
Drip irrigation saves water by delivering water right to the root zone of the plant material and is usually allowed outside watering windows in areas with watering restrictions. The drip irrigation systems eliminate overspray, wind drift and evaporation cause by standard sprinklers. Some benefits of drip irrigation include reducing weed growth by not watering areas with no plant material and providing an excellent tool for hedge rows and for watering pots. Drip irrigation also helps to irrigate odd shaped areas, reduces wet surfaces on hardscapes and eliminates staining caused by overhead irrigation.
TURF: How do contractors learn about drip?
Kundrat: Manufactures have developed drip irrigation resources on how to install equipment, literature on the industry and have created calculators to help contractors design and sell drip irrigation systems. Some contractors often create links from their websites to these tools.
TURF: Any new or relatively new improvements (technologies) making drip more affordable and easier to maintain?
Kundrat: There have been several technological advancements in drip irrigation products in recent years, but one of the most successful is the addition of check valve emitters in drip line tubing. In the past, contractors were concerned that drip line emitters would plug up over time causing maintenance issues. This was usually caused by emitters drawing in debris at system start up and shut down.
Recent advancements in check valve emitter technology have included anti-siphon features that prevent this vacuum from occurring. It has also eliminated the need for an air/vacuum relief valve. Check valves also keep the line primed after the watering cycle, reducing wear and tear on system components, reducing line fill time at the beginning of each cycle and preventing excessive water waste. Most check valve drip line is similar in cost to regular non-check valve tubing and it has reduced installation and maintenance time.
Turf: Please share any information (trends, etc.) showing property owners’ increased interest in drip.
Kundrat: Several major retailers increased their dedicated shelf space for drip in 2016 while reducing the traditional underground selling space. This is a direct result of homeowners needing more drip related products for conversion from underground. At one retailer, we introduced seven new kits specifically designed for conversion from underground. We included one of our cutoff risers in each kit to make the install that much easier. This particular retailer increased their drip presence from 16- to 20-foot plus two 4-foot end caps in each store.
There has also been an increase in drip regulations in areas of the country with the largest housing starts (California, Texas and Florida). In these areas, large volumes of drip line are being used to water landscape areas throughout the communities (homes, roadways, parks, etc.). In many cases, production homes come with drip irrigation already installed in the landscape beds.