Reclamation's Major Urban Conservation Opportunity--Efficient Turf Irrigation

Project ID: 6976
Principal Investigator: Fred Liljegren
Research Topic: Supporting Irrigation Districts
Funded Fiscal Years: 2007 and 2008
Keywords: None

Project Abstract

Project 6976
Urban Conservation Opportunity Efficient Turf irrigation

Studies indicate that in the Western United States., 50 to70 percent of the water used in cities and towns is applied to irrigate landscapes. These studies also show that landscape irrigation uses up to twice the amount of water as plants require. Potentially one-fourth to one-third of the water delivered from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects to cities and towns is wasted.

Eight plots were established with different turf grass mixes in 2008 (Table 1) at Northern Water in Berthoud, CO. The official soil series at the Conservation Gardens is a Nunn clay loam, 0 to 1 percent slope, although soil tests indicated a silty clay soil texture. Water meters, rain gauges and tipping buckets were used to accurately measure water applied and soil moisture sensors were used to maintain water supply to plants as needed.

Several grass mixes offer lower water use for turf installations. Grass mixes instead of single varieties offered best characteristics of each grass and may have an advantage in responding to different climate and irrigation conditions. Foothills Mix used 22 percent less water than Low Grow Mix. Reveille Texas hybrid blue grass used 14 percent less water than Low Grow Mix. Soil water balance calculated ET and total applied water (flow meter data plus effective Berthoud precipitation) were in substantial agreement. The flow meter data were a valuable check for the soil water balance calculation, providing instrumentation redundancy and confirmation that the calculation technique was valid.
This study showed that Reveille Texas Hybrid Bluegrass and Foothills Mix had substantially lower seasonal ET than Canada Blue Fescue, Forever Green Mix, and Low Grow Mix. Monthly ET patterns also showed Reveille and Foothills Mix ET declining more rapidly in late summer than the other three turf varieties. These differences can be exploited for landscape water conservation.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Conserving Urban Water Using Landscape Irrigation Guides and Tools (final, PDF, 67KB)
By Fred Liljegren
Publication completed on September 30, 2008

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Not Reviewed

The following documents were not reviewed. Statements made in these documents are those of the authors. The findings have not been verified.

Urban Conservation Opportunity Efficient Turf irrigation (final, PDF, 248KB)
By Ms. Mary Hattendorf
Report completed on March 01, 2010

Studies indicate 50 to70 percent of the water used in western cities and towns is applied to irrigate landscapes. Studies also show that landscape irrigators are using up to twice as much water as the plants require. This means one-fourth to one-third of the water delivered from Reclamation projects to cities is wasted. The Urban Conservation Opportunity Efficient Turf Irrigation project evaluated a methodology to help define the seasonal water needs for a variety of turf grasses.

Return to Research Projects

Last Updated: 6/22/20