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Streamline your sprinkler system to save water

A healthy landscape evolves over time and your watering habits should change with it.

A Thomasson is a funny term in architecture that refers to any feature that once had a purpose, but now thanks to renovations or remodels no longer does. Think of a staircase that leads to a blocked door or an empty telephone nook built into a wall from the 1940s.

While the term was coined in the realm of architecture, I’ve noticed plenty of Thomassons in residential landscapes as well.

A common one I see is the tree bubbler. These little irrigation fixtures are added to the base of trees and apply water quickly to a small area to help young trees get established. But they become unnecessary when they’re left active once the tree is established (between 3-18 months). Plus, applying water right at the trunk of a mature tree is not helpful for mature trees because very few of the tree’s fine, water-absorbing roots are still located there.

Changes to the landscape create constant Thomassons in your irrigation system. Under growing trees and between houses, grass sod naturally thins due to lack of sunlight. However, many irrigation systems still water heavily there as if the grass is still thick and green.

When landscapes change, your watering habits should change with them — a constant opportunity for improvement. Perhaps it’s time to remove an irrigation zone and build a pathway or flowerbed where grass is struggling?

Broken bubbler wasting water near a tree.

Blocked sprinkler heads are probably the most disappointing Thomassons I see because many times they’re caused by people trying to do the right thing. For example, we recommend replacing grass with shrubs and perennials as a way to save water. But you must remove the irrigation in the area to save water. It might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve visited many houses where drought-tolerant plantings and even stone patios have been installed on top of functioning irrigation zones. All that effort and expense has created a brand-new Thomasson.

Sprinklerheads wasting water on rocks

I can’t stress enough the importance of changing your irrigation system as you plan and design new landscaping. Try to see the Thomassons in your irrigation system as the opportunities they are: to streamline and save water. I’ve outlined three common ones, but perhaps you can think of others in your yard.

Remember, our WaterSaver coupons and rebates can help you eliminate these vestigial water hogs. There’s no time like the present to start saving water.

Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell is a conservation planner for SAWS. He is enthusiastic about grass taxonomy and milkweed propagation. In his free time, Powell enjoys hiking around area parks in search of intriguing bugs, birds and plants.
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