Cache County residents can receive a free “well check” on their irrigation system this summer, thanks to a partnership between the Cache Water Conservancy District and Utah State University Extension.
“People, probably a lot of them, are overwatering their lawns and this is a good way to get the word out to the public about better ways to do lawn watering,” said Nathan Daugs, manager of the water conservancy district.
This well check is done through a USU Extension program that began in 1999. Using data gathered from the landowner’s irrigation system, residents are provided personalized instructions on when and how to water their property to both conserve water and have a healthier lawn.
Although the program has been around for 20 years, the costs are usually covered by water conservancy districts. Because Cache County did not have a water conservancy district until 2016, the program was not offered in the area.
JayDee Gunnell, a regional horticulturist with USU Extension, said Extension services provided a limited number of water checks in the county as a trial last year.
Because results were positive, Water District board members decided to cover the cost for making the tests available countywide this year.
Gunnell said there are a few reasons why it is important for landowners to better understand the output of their irrigation system.
“One is to conserve water in the landscape,” Gunnell said. “Most of our good water goes on the landscape, and so we want to conserve it and stretch it as far as we can. The other thing is properly irrigated landscapes are usually healthier, so less insect problems.”
Water checks will be performed by Extension volunteers and interns, including Amanda Piper, an undergraduate student at USU.
Piper said when she or someone else from Extension visits a property, they inspect the irrigation zones to ensure it is working properly. They also run one zone for about 10 minutes to measure the output.
Entering this and other data they have collected into software on a tablet, they are able to provide an on-the-spot watering recommendation to the landowner.
“The app will calculate how many times a week they should be watering and for how long. Depending on the month and the weather too,” Piper said.
Daugs hopes this program will help people become more aware of their water use.
“This will be just the first of many water conversation efforts we put forth over the next few years,” Daugs said. “We will have other programs out there to help people move toward more water-wise landscaping and other conservation efforts they can do around their yard.”
Since the program is new in Cache County, Daugs said the board is unsure of the results it will yield. He said the more people who participate, the more noticeable the impact will be.
“If 50 percent of the population of a city were to have this done, I think the city would see a reduction in water use,” Daugs said. “If only 10 homes do it, you are not going to really see a difference on a citywide basis.”
Throughout the program’s life, Gunnell said Extension services have found that most homeowners are watering their property with twice the amount of water needed.
“The goal is to help people see that they can still have a green lawn and maybe cut one or two irrigation cycles out a week,” Gunnell said.
Water surveys are free of charge to Cache County residents. Those interested in setting up a water check can call the Extension at (435)752-6263. For more water-wise landscaping information, visit cwel.usu.edu.