Sprinkler system is water-saving option

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In planning xeriscaped yards, one sometimes overlooked water-savings step is a close look at a home's sprinkler system.

"Proper irrigation practices can lead to a 30- to 80-percent water savings around home grounds," according to landscaping tips from the Colorado State University Moffat County Extension Office.

Sprinkler heads might need to be replaced if the system consistently sprays driveways and patios, while residents should also be mindful of the amount of water needed for turf as opposed to shrubs, borders and flower beds.

"North and east exposures need less frequent watering than south and west exposures. Apply water to slopes more slowly than to flat surfaces ... examine these closely and correct inefficiencies in (the) irrigation system design."

Other steps both inside and out of homes can also save substantial water quantities. Home infrastructure is the best place to start, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"All the water savings devices in the world won't do much good if you have leaky faucets or pipes," an EPA water savings guide states.

The agency also recommends:

o Installing low-flush toilets. Toilets account for as much as 20 percent of a home's water use with many modern toilets needing between 3.5 and 5 gallons per flush. Low-flush toilets use half that amount.

o Replacing your showerhead. Older high-flow showerheads use as much as 4.5 gallons per minute, while newer models cut that usage in half. The EPA says this step can save an estimated 20,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four.

Also, homemade conservation devises -- such as a milk jug filled with stones -- can be placed into toilet tanks, which reduces the amount of water used per flush.

o Installing low-flow faucet aerators. The devises break streams of water flowing from the tap into fine droplets, which reduces the water used while still maintaining flows.

Simple behavior changes -- from turning off water while brushing teeth or shaving, adjusting water levels on washing machines equal to laundry loads and running dishwashers only with a full load -- can also add up to substantial water savings.

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