Is It Worthwhile to Install an Irrigation System If Your Region Is in a Drought?

If you live on the West Coast or in the Southwest United States, you may be bracing for yet another long, hot summer of crispy lawns and low crop productivity. However, certain communities and homeowners' associations (HOAs) have begun to crack down on homeowners who have allowed their lawns to go dormant for too long, fining or otherwise penalizing those whose lawns have become an unsightly brown due to drought conditions. If you were considering the installation of a lawn irrigation system prior to the onslaught of the drought, you may be wondering whether an irrigation system is still a worthwhile investment. Read on to learn more about irrigation systems and some of your eco-friendly and water-saving options. 

Can (and should) you use an irrigation system during a drought?

Even if your HOA or city housing authority hasn't put forth an edict preventing your lawn from drying up and going dormant this summer, investing in an irrigation system can be a good way to maintain your lawn's health during both the dry (and wet) years to come. Today's home sprinklers and irrigation systems are energy efficient and can save significantly more water than using a garden hose, even if you irrigate your lawn more frequently than you'd water it. 

On the other end of the spectrum, some parts of the country that are still experiencing significant drought have passed state or local regulations to govern water consumption, fining those who use too much water in a brief period of time. If you live in one of these areas, you'll want to check your zoning codes and local ordinances and measure these restrictions against the specifications of the type of irrigation system you're hoping to purchase. In some cases, you may find that the system you were contemplating is already compliant with your local water restriction ordinances (for example, a system that allows you to specify a maximum amount of daily water usage). In other cases, for your lawn to remain "legal," you may want to investigate another product.   

What types of irrigation systems are the best choices for drought-prone areas? 

There are several features and systems that are ideal for use in hot, dry climates. These include the following:

  • Solar-powered systems

Most irrigation systems are hooked up to your home's electricity supply, using electricity whenever the sprinklers are turned on. Solar-powered irrigation systems operate independently from your home's electricity supply, instead using solar cells to collect energy from the sun's rays and converting this energy into the electricity needed to run your irrigation system. These solar cells are affixed to unobtrusive panels that can be placed at various points throughout your lawn, and may include storage batteries so that your irrigation system can also operate at night or on cloudy days. 

Solar-powered irrigation systems are ideal for drought regions, as these areas often tend to be sunnier than average, providing you with a great source of energy at no cost. These systems can also be adjusted to irrigate your lawn as frequently (or infrequently) as you wish, conserving even more solar power. 

  • Grey water systems

For areas under water-use restrictions, the old adage "reduce, reuse, recycle" comes into play. After reducing your water consumption, reusing certain types of water that comes from your daily activities ("grey water") for landscaping purposes can be the perfect next step. Grey water is created through the use of fresh water for showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry—although it may contain trace amounts of hair, grease, or soap, it's free from pathogens and safe for use on plants and landscaping. 

Installing a grey water irrigation system is relatively simple, and converting a traditional system to run on grey water isn't difficult, either. However, both are usually best done by a licensed plumber. Instead of connecting the supply end of the irrigation hose to a water main near your home, you'll instead connect it to a central collection barrel. You'll then want to route the water that drains from your sinks, showers, and clothes washer to this collection barrel, where it can be filtered of debris and piped through your buried hoses to water your lawn. 

To learn more about your lawn-watering options during a drought, look for an irrigation system installation service in your area.