Irrigation System Efficiency Checklist

Click here for the PDF checklist.

October has arrived, and the welcome relief from the heat may turn attention away from drought. While Arizona had a decent monsoon season, it was nowhere near enough to pull the region out of drought status. Now is the time for landscape professionals, property managers, homeowners and community residents to double down efforts and work together to reduce landscape water usage, all while maintaining attractive outdoor spaces. ALCA has created this Irrigation Efficiency Checklist to guide this cooperative effort.

Irrigation System Efficiency Checklist

  • Schedule regular system checks (wet-test) to spot leaks, clogged nozzles, misdirection and other problems
  • Replace broken heads immediately; repair or replace leaking valves, pipes and emitters
  • Check with your local water supplier for rebate opportunities to increase irrigations system efficiency


  • Assess current programming to spot any errors or accidental extra run times
  • Manage irrigation schedule according to ET (evapotranspiration)
    • use a smart controller or make monthly adjustments at minimum
    • make conventional controllers “smarter” with add-ons like soil moisture sensors, weather stations
  • Water to correct depth at each watering – wet the entire root zone of the plants
    • change the frequency of the irrigation, not the run-time
  • Use cycle and soak setting to reduce run-off
  • Run sprinklers early in the morning to reduce water loss by evaporation


  • Manage Water Pressure, misting indicates pressure is too high
    • consider Pressure Regulating Sprays and Pressure Regulating Stems (rotors)
  • Do not mix rotors and sprays on a valve
  • Use correct head-to-head spacing
  • Maximize Distribution Uniformity (DU) with matched precipitation rate (MPR) nozzles
  • Check and adjust sprinklers after mowing
  • Use high efficiency/pressure regulating heads are used for water savings


  • Replace flag emitters with pressure compensating drip emitters
  • Plug orphan emitters (emitters with no plants) - unless they are a water source for a nearby plant/tree
  • Check and clean filters regularly; flush lines at end caps annually
  • Move/add drip emitters out to the drip line of the plants/trees as they grow, plug those closest to trunk
  • Consider sub-surface irrigation to minimize evaporation from soil surface

Other efficiency opportunities

  • Hydrozone - group plants with similar water needs on the same zone/valve
  • Consider converting non-essential turf areas to low-water use landscaping or artificial turf
  • Consider skipping overseeding an area; use less water and promote healthier Bermudagrass
  • When adding or replacing plant materials, choose lower-water use plants
  • Keep irrigation and rainwater on the site by using appropriate grades
  • Consider the use of reclaimed (non-potable) water


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