Stepping Up Efficiency in Irrigation

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), water use in irrigation accounts for nearly 65%of the world’s freshwater usage (excluding thermoelectric power). Meanwhile, as much as 50% of this water is lost due to wind, evaporation and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems.

During the month of July, American Water supports The Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month—an effort aimed at bringing the industry together to share best practices and technologies for conscientious irrigation. Part of this effort is dedicated to educating the larger community on how we can be more responsible and efficient when it comes to water. With this in mind, we want to share some tips from the Irrigation Association that we found helpful in promoting smarter and more efficient irrigation in two of the most water-dependent industries: agriculture and landscape.


When it comes to agriculture, water use is a balancing act: when water is used effectively and safely, production and crop yield are positively affected. A decrease in water can cause production and yield to worsen, while too much water is wasteful. Fortunately, there are some ways to improve water efficiency without compromising results.

  1. Practice good soil management. By knowing your soil, you can have a better grasp on what it needs. Using appropriate and precise irrigation methods will make sure you’re meeting the water storage capacity of the soil, while avoiding wasteful water runoff.
  2. Work on improving scheduling. Scheduling allows farmers to keep better track of water usage, preventing over-watering and under-watering.
  3. Look into cost-share programs. Many farmers can partake in The Environmental Quality Incentives program that enables them to upgrade to more efficient irrigation solutions. Visit here to see if you’re eligible.


A household with an automatic landscape irrigation system that isn’t properly maintained can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water annually. But landscape irrigation does not have to be wasteful. Here are some tips on how to conserve while keeping your lawn green.

  1. Slow the flow. When water is applied quickly, it is more likely to run off to the pavement. When the flow is slowed down, plants and grass still receive what they need—in fact, it gives the water a better chance of soaking into the ground that needs it most.
  2. Keep an eye on your sprinklers. By regularly inspecting your system, you can make sure they are watering the areas they should be without any issues, such as an obstruction or a leak.
  3. Make informed decisions. By working with a certified irrigation contractor, selecting the right appliances and making smart upgrades to your system, you can be a more efficient landscaper.

And, because not all of us are responsible for watering agriculture or large-scale landscaping, it’s important to remember that we can also be more efficient when it comes to water use in our own backyards. So, if you’re taking care of a small family garden or a stretch of lawn and some plants, check out our outdoor water conservation tips for everyday consumers.