Efficient irrigation reduces chemical runoff

How overwatering creates runoff

At Weathermatic, we are restating these facts every day.   So few people have heard it, so we must constantly share the message.   Nationwide, commercial and residential properties commit up to 30-70% of their water use to landscape irrigation.  Unfortunately, according to the EPA, 50% of this outdoor water use simply runs off the property and down the street due to overwatering.   We all know that weather can vary dramatically from day to day, let alone season to season or year to year.  Changes in sun, wind, and precipitation lead to changes in soil moisture and plant health.  If automatic sprinkler systems do not account for such changes, properties can be heavily overwatered.  During overwatering or a storm event, soil and plants can only absorb so much water until they are completely saturated.  Excess water will then run off the surface of the ground and take soil, nutrients, and any other chemicals along with it. 

How overwatering leads to chemical pollution

While water from inside buildings typically moves through sewage treatment systems to have pollutants removed, surface runoff typically runs directly into streams, rivers, and lakes, or runs into storm drains that eventually empty right back into the environment without being treated.  This means that excess nutrients and chemicals not only get washed off of the properties where they were applied, but they end up washing right into natural ecosystems. 

Why is this such a problem?  First, if nutrients and treatments are washed away in the first place, then extra fertilizer and pesticides are required to keep the lawn healthy.  This costs extra money and introduces extra pollutants into the environment.  In addition, overwatering decreases plant health, leading property owners to add even more fertilizer.

Secondly, these excess nutrients and pollutants run right into our streams and rivers.  Runoff from fertilizers and nutrients causes algal blooms in many lakes in a process called “eutrophication”.  These blooms decrease the safety of the water for recreational use and drinking.  More importantly, they fundamentally alter the ecosystem and lakes can become “stuck” in these algae-dominated states.  As algae grow, so do the microbes who eat it. Dense microbe populations consume the oxygen needed by fish and other animals and can lead to massive fish kills and decreased ecosystem health.  As nutrient-laden water runs to the sea, it causes marine algal blooms that can become red tides, producing deadly toxins that also lead to fish kills and paralytic shellfish poisoning, endangering the fishing industry and countless lives. 

How Weathermatic helps reduce runoff and pollution

For the last two decades, Weathermatic has been providing innovative irrigation solutions that minimize runoff by eliminating overwatering.  Not only are sprinkler systems highly specialized for soil and plant type, they can be linked with the SmartLine controller – an automatic controller that accounts for local weather, soil, and plant type to daily adjust watering schemes - and the SmartLink network, a web-based application that allows property owners and contractors to remotely control and respond to their systems.  By saving millions of gallons per year, Weathermatic’s products save property owners thousands of dollars – not to mention the money saved because fertilizer is retained and plants are healthier.  On a broader scale, reducing runoff means Weathermatic’s smart products also decrease the amount of fertilizer and other pollution contaminating our water supply and destroying our ecosystems. 

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About this author

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Mike Mason

Mike Mason is president and CEO of Weathermatic. Mike came to Weathermatic in 1993 and has led the company to launch strategic products such as the SmartLine controller, SmartLink web-based control and Sustainability Services division. Mason takes personal leadership in the social investment of these new business ventures whereby the company donates part of all revenues to global clean water causes through the Save Water, Give Life initiative.

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