How to conduct a water audit

Departments - Business Management

July 25, 2011
Chuck Bowen

Take a drive through a typical office park or suburban neighborhood and you’re almost guaranteed to see irrigation systems that take a sort of shotgun approach to watering.

Rotors spray into the street. Misting nozzles coat the sidewalk. One zone looks more like Old Faithful than anything resembling a graceful arc of water.

Too often, contractors miss an opportunity to tune up irrigation systems they install or service. With many municipalities cracking down on water use and water districts raising rates, a simple water audit could save your clients a lot of water and money – and help your company stand out in a crowded and competitive field.
“A water audit provides the opportunity to evaluate and improve the reliability and efficiency of your irrigation system,” says Craig Borland, senior customer resource specialist for The Toro Co.

Here, Borland lays out how to measure a system’s performance and make sure it’s operating at peak efficiency.

1. Inspect the entire system. Run through all the zones and measure the water pressure while the sprinklers are operating. Record wind speed and look for worn or leaky sprinkler seals as well as heads that are below grade or crooked.

2. Look for signs of overwatering. If you see puddles, water running down the street or geysers of water shooting from a broken head or pipe, make a note and inspect these sites for repairs.

3. Set out cups, also referred to as catchments, in the lawn to measure the dispersal of water.

4. Measure the water disperal and the pressure on the system. If the amount of water captured in the cups differs widely, it’s a sign of inefficient water usage. Even levels indicate uniform watering. You can download a whitepaper on calculating uniformity at

5. Repair and report. Raise or lower sprinkler heads to grade, patch or replace broken water lines and adjust spray arcs so you’re only watering things that need water. After you’ve improved the system’s efficiency, give your client a report outlining what you did and any water savings they can expect.