Irrigation System Optimization

Review these tips below for ways that you can start saving water, today!

  • Proper system maintenance
    • This should be a top priority for improving efficiency; it can reduce water usage by up to 15% as well as extend the lifetime of an irrigation system.
    • Setting up an extra system check-up from your contractor and learning to look for issues on your own is a great way to stay on top of your water usage.
    • Refer to the table below for common sprinkler head issues.
  • Review your irrigation system schedule
    • It is quite possible that you do not need to be watering as often as you do, especially in regions with adequate rainfall.
    • 3 days per week is typically more than enough for adequate irrigation.
  • Ensure that your rain sensor(s) is installed, functioning and set to active
    • This is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your system shuts down when enough moisture is present.
    • Rain sensors do not last forever and replacing them is common (typical lifetime is 3-7 years). Test your sensor each year to see if it needs to be replaced.
  • Consider a soil moisture sensor and smart irrigation controller
    • Soil moisture sensors and smart irrigation controllers are proven ways to adjust your system when there has been adequate rainfall.
    • Though there are trade-offs, soil moisture sensors are said to be more reliable than rain sensors.
    • Smart controllers take the guesswork out of irrigation and factor in local weather data to make adjustments.
  • Set your system to OFF by default
    • This sounds like a crazy idea, but can be an effective way to use an irrigation system if a maintenance staff member works on-site daily.
    • The University of Minnesota Turfgrass Research program found positive results in terms of lawn health and how green turf remained, when setting an irrigation controller to “Off” and turning it on only when they felt water was needed (click here for more or visit
  • Consider a detailed irrigation audit by a WaterSense certified professional
    • A detailed audit will help identify maintenance needs, as well as the potential for system adjustments for any type of controller.

Common sprinkler head issues


Broken/leaking heads

• Highest priority when it comes to sprinkler head maintenance.
• Typically leak/waste the most water when it comes to head issues.
• Virtually no spray coverage when heads are broken, some coverage possible if just a leak

Rotor heads that do not spin

• High priority with head maintenance.
• Prevents full coverage of water within range of the head.
• Possibly leads to over watering due to brown spots where rotor is not watering.

Heads with a damaged or poor base seal

• Can cause pooling of water at the base of the head and can disrupt spray intensity.
• If the spray is poor enough, these issues should be addressed by checking the seal and or replacing the head.

Improper location for sprinkler head

• Heads primarily spraying buildings, roads, or woodland should be removed or properly aligned to cover irrigable land.

Heads set too low

• Can lead to poor water dispersion when spray is blocked by the height of the turf.
• Low priority, but should be addressed when heads need replacement.

Heads that are not plumb

• Can cause inconsistent spray angle, especially with rotor heads which leads to inconsistent water coverage.
• Low priority, but should be addressed when heads need replacement

Information provided in this fact sheet can be credited to the EPA WaterSense program and is adopted from the MnTAP publication “Conserving water through commercial and residential irrigation efficiency: A primer on best practices and opportunities for cities interested in irrigation water conservation”. For more information, visit or