Vital to the efficient and proper operation of any secondary water system is the filter. Filters are designed to keep sand, dirt, algae, aquatic life and other particles from clogging sprinkler heads, lines or valves. When clogged, systems will operate at lower pressures resulting in less coverage and lower efficiencies, which result in areas of the landscape drying out.

A few factors to consider when selecting a filter include:

Source of water

Type of irrigation application; sprinkler heads or drip irrigation

Ease of cleaning

Source of water

Irrigation water is untreated, unfiltered water (in our system it is screened to remove large debris) that is used for the irrigation of outdoor residential landscaping and gardening. This water is non-potable (not suitable for human consumption) and should not be used for outdoor recreation (filling pools or playing in the sprinklers). Throughout the District’s service area irrigation water is typically diverted directly out of the Weber River, transported via canals, aqueducts, irrigation reservoirs and then pipelines to the end user. Because the water is straight out of the river it contains sediment, organic material or aquatic life that may be present throughout the irrigation season.

Aquatic life includes macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates live in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Examples of these organisms include crayfish, ostracods (“seed shrimp”), conch ostraca (“clam shrimps”), the larvae of many types of flies (caddisfly, dragonfly, mayfly, stonefly, etc.), and many others. The presence of macroinvertebrates in rivers usually denotes healthy water quality and serves as a food source for many fish.

Type of irrigation application

Irrigation system failures can commonly be traced back to sprinkler heads getting plugged with sediment and organic matter. How much filtration do you need? This is dependent on what type of irrigation system you have. A drip irrigation system will require much more filtration in order to protect the drip emitters from plugging then spray heads or rotary nozzles. If you are using a drip system for your garden or flower beds make sure to research the manufacturers literature to determine the level of filtration required.

Generally, you will want to use the highest level of filtration that is practical for your situation. A filter that removes smaller particles will certainly help prolong the life of your irrigation system; however, it will require more frequent cleanings as more material is being removed from the water. Excessive flushing or cleaning of the filter can also waste energy and water.

Ease of cleaning

There are a variety of sizes and types of filters on the market. A larger filter (more surface area) may come at a higher cost, but may provide more time between cleanings; whereas, a filter with less surface area is going to need cleaning much more frequently. Depending on the filter selected you should plan to check and clean it every two days to two weeks.

Most filters are designed to allow removal of the filter screen without having to take apart the entire filter assembly. Make sure you place your filter assembly in an enclosure that will protect it from the elements, but also provide adequate space for the necessary regular cleanings.

If you start to notice some unusual dry spots in your landscape, take a moment to check your filter. Understand that as usage increases more sediment will become suspended and the frequency of your filter cleanings should increase. The nature of water systems will also dictate how sediment and material move through the pipes and some areas will end up with more material in the water than others.

Maintaining your irrigation system by having a filter, cleaning it often and making sure your sprinkler heads or other sprinkler system parts are working correctly will result in less landscape frustrations that can cause dry areas. If you are struggling with various elements of the irrigation system and need help to identify sprinkler system items that could be corrected to improve efficiency, the District offers a free sprinkler water check service. You will receive a list of items needing attention and a customized irrigation schedule for your yard. Call to schedule your appointment at 801-771-1677.

Jon Parry is the assistant general manager, Strategic Initiatives for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

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