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Consider adding a rain sensor to your sprinkler system

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Sep. 13, 2013, at 3:20 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013, at 3:05 p.m.

Rebate program for water conservation

Here are the basics of a rebate program that the city of Wichita has for buying products that help conserve water. The products include rain barrels and smart irrigation controllers.

• Purchase must be made between May 1 and Dec. 31, or as long as the money lasts.

• Rebates are applied to the water bill.

• There is a limit of five qualifying devices per residence.

• It covers low-flow toilets, high-efficiency dishwashers and clothes washers, rain barrels and smart irrigation controllers. The rebates are for $100 for all items except the rain barrels, which are eligible for a rebate of as much as $75.

For more information, go to the website www.savewichitawater.com.

For more information on smart irrigation controllers

Go to the website www.epa.gov/watersense/ and click on “Outdoor,” then “Watering Wisely Tips/Technology” and then references to “WaterSense labeled controller” and “water-saving technologies.”

If you have a sprinkler system or plan to have one installed, you should have a rain sensor attached to it, said Andy Veatch of Lawn Sprinkler Services.

It’s something that people are already learning, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot more interest in improving the efficiency” of irrigation systems to use less water, Veatch said.

A rain sensor will shut off a sprinkler system if it’s raining. The cost of a sensor is less than $175, he said; new ones are wireless so the labor of running a wire is not required.

“There’s been a dramatic improvement in rain sensors,” Veatch said; some will shut off during a rain and wait to see how much moisture falls before deciding whether to start back up again or stay shut off.

Veatch also recommends audits of sprinkler systems.

“There can be some dramatic improvements by checking them out,” he said. A company will put out catch cans to see how much water from each irrigation station is actually reaching the grass or plants and how much is evaporating into the air or being sprayed on sidewalks, streets or walls. He said one audit showed that the system being tested was only 8 percent efficient. “That’s horrible – whereas the average is in the 45 to 50 percent range. You can’t achieve 100 percent, but you can get into the 70s pretty well.” If you go from 8 to 10 percent efficiency to 75 percent, “that’s going to save you a lot of water.”

The cost of an audit is about $350, and most yards take $400 to $700 in improvements, Veatch said.

“The rain sensor is the least expensive and is going to give you the biggest bang” for your water-conservation buck.

“Having your system looked at professionally every year once or twice will probably help you” save money, he said.

Veatch said his company has seen “a massive number of people converting to wells from city water” over the past two years. When some of the wells dried up in the drought last year, some people converted back to city water. Increased drilling also has brought about wells that don’t pump as much water or are pumping salty water, he said. Water that is high in salt cannot be used on landscapes, and the water can’t be tested before a well is drilled. Veatch said problem areas are mainly in far-east Wichita and around 135th and Maple.

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