Water works

Even though water covers two-thirds of the Earth's surface, there is a limited amount that people can use for everyday life. Only 3 percent of the world's water supply is fresh water, and two-thirds of that is frozen. The remaining 1 percent of available water comes in the form of either surface water, which is visible water above the ground in lakes, ponds and rivers, or ground water, which is underground.

In the United States, 450 billion gallons of water a day are taken from ground and surface water supplies for many different uses. Only 100 billion gallons are actually consumed and the remaining 350 billion gallons are used for industrial and agricultural applications. The largest part of the 350 billion gallons is used for agricultural irrigation. For example, it takes over 1 million gallons of water a year just to irrigate 1 acre of farmland in dry conditions. Landscaping accounts for only 2.9 percent of total water usage nationwide.

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Because it rains more often in some areas of the United States, irrigation manufactures provide options for water conservation and control. The following devices are some of the more affordable options to conserve water and keep plants and turf alive.

  • Automatic controllers allow you to control watering time, amount of water and tailor application rates for different types of plants.

  • Soil moisture measurement devices monitor the amount of available water in the soil to plants. They turn irrigation watering on or off depending on the appropriate levels to maximize plant growth while minimizing the water used.

  • Rain shut-down devices sense when it is raining and shut off the irrigation system.

  • Advanced performance sprinklers include computer-analyzed nozzles and spray patterns that provide uniform water distribution.

  • Low-flow drip irrigation systems apply water a drop at a time to the root zone of the plant for more effective watering.

Source: The Environmental Protection Agency and The Irrigation Association.

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