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Optimizing Outdoor Water Budgets for Site-Specific Needs

Keeping landscapes healthy — while reducing water consumption — is the process of matching the water supply precisely to the plant’s needs. Irrigating to a water budget is an effective way to do this, but what exactly is a water budget, why does it matter, and how can we create better ones?

What is a Water Budget?

A water budget refers to the Maximum Allowed Water Allowance (MAWA) and is a method of determining the limit of water allowed for an established landscape — but landscape managers and their clients both have slightly different perspectives on it. Clients tend to look at water budgets from a purely financial standpoint. However, water managers also look at the health of landscapes and the irrigation systems used to maintain them.

Water managers must give landscapes the exact amount of water they need to be as healthy as possible, so they can create an accurate projection of what a client will need to spend. The needs of landscapes vary greatly — landscaping can be the field at a top tier stadium or simply the flower beds in front of an apartment building, and everything from timing schedules to irrigation requirements will vary accordingly. One of the challenges faced is that many clients think they’ll be spending the same amount of money annually on their water needs, but due to inflation, water availability, water rates and more, the cost varies year over year.

The Importance of Outdoor Water Budgets

Creating a water budget and using smart irrigation systems to stick to it helps get water exactly where it needs to go, so that no area is over- or underwatered. Oftentimes, landscape managers over their water budget, but still see their landscapes suffering, because they are applying water in places that don’t need it.

Irrigating to a water budget results in benefits both to the bottom line and to the landscape, including a better understanding of consumption patterns, information about how to best control irrigation, data to help manage demand during a drought, reduced energy costs of treating and pumping water, and greater water savings.


How to Create a Site-Specific Water Budget

There are three methods commonly used when creating a water budget. One way is to take a one-size-fits-all approach and use the previous year’s water bills to determine if sites were being overwatered or underwatered, and then establish a budget from there.

Another way is to create a budget by modifying the historical usage data to improve the landscape and reduce the amount of water, instead of just maintaining what has already been done.  

The best way is to audit each property – capturing the irrigation efficiency, different types of plant material, and square footage of the landscape – and then using this information to create a site-specific budget to meet the landscape’s unique needs.

Water Budgeting Tools

The WeatherTRAK smart irrigation platform offers a variety of tools to help track and monitor water budgets. Budget Manager enables easy comparison between water bills over time. This tool can measure the impact of conservation efforts, impact of changes in landscape or irrigation practices, differences in weather patterns, and more. It keeps track of your client’s water budgets in real-time and can quickly generate customized reports to share with them.

For more about using WeatherTRAK to create site-specific water budgets to conserve water and save money, watch this webinar.