District News Articles

  2. Picture this... The long, cold, barren days of winter have finally melted away. Yes, it's springtime! You now realize that it's time to fire up your lawn irrigation system. You open wide the supply valve; turn on the timer, and then stand back in horror watching as a geyser erupts in the middle of your yard!


    What happened? Well, in your spring-induced excitement, you neglected to properly start up your irrigation system after its long winter nap. Fortunately, this scenario is easy to avoid. Just a few simple steps before you turn on your irrigation system will protect it from immediate and unforeseen damage, as well as make it more reliable year after year.


    The greatest threat to your irrigation system, during initial start-up, is water hammer. You may already know about water hammer if you have 'clanging' plumbing in your house. That 'knock' is produced by a surge of air pressure caused by the rush of water suddenly flowing into an empty pipe, giving the air in the pipe no time to escape. This causes the banging you hear.


    But that is just the outward indication; inside a pipe, the surge pressure can reach as much as 15 times the desired operating pressure of the system. This surge pressure can burst fittings and cause sprinklers to literally blow right out of the ground. Worse still, even if your system doesn't blow like Old Faithful, you may be risking system failure later on when you are away on vacation, say, or in the peak summer months when you need your irrigation system the most.


    Before this truly happens, remember that if it’s predictable, it’s preventable:


    ·       Before actually "recharging" your irrigation pipes, use a shovel to confirm that the soil is frost-free to a full 12” below the surface. Don’t rush things!


    ·       When it is truly time to start up your system, begin filling the system very slowly, this will minimize surge pressure and let you check many of the various system functions. You may even want to remove sprinkler heads at the top of each zone, which allows air to be pushed out of the system.


    ·       As each zone is operated, check the area around the valves and sprinkler heads to be sure that there are no leaks or breaks in the system and that all sprinklers are level with the ground and spraying correctly. Yes, you may get wet during this exercise!


    ·       Water that constantly seeps from a sprinkler head may indicate a leak in a control box valve. Now is the time to check it out!


    ·       Finally, if you have an automatic controller, replace the batteries that are used to preserve your settings (if the timer uses them).


    ·       While you’re in the spring check mode, consider checking out your garden hoses for cracks and leaks; winter cold and our dry climate can take a toll on the rubber!


    Although there are various methods of turning the water on safely, the important thing is to prevent water hammer, the damaging surge of air pressure that results from a rush of water flowing into an empty pipe.