Efficient Use of Water

The drought has turned everything brown (this is not a picture of our garden)
Living in north west England, we are about to be subject to a hosepipe ban. This means that householders must water their gardens with watering cans. There has been much in the press about Lancashire and Cumbria being two of the wettest counties in England as well as the very high level of leaks in the network (something over 20% of all the water is lost through leaks) and this is all very interesting. But the burning question is: how will we water our plants?

Fortunately, we have a very efficient 'drip irrigation' system in our garden which waters the plants with much less water than a simple hose with a spray attachment. And, fortunately, a system like this is excepted from the hosepipe ban. Although United Utilities don't shout about it, it is in the small print of their legal notice:
Discretionary Universal Exceptions

Customers who meet the criteria below for a
Discretionary Universal Exception can continue to use
water without having to make representation to United
Utilities Water Limited to receive permission to use water
for the following restricted uses.

• Use of an approved drip or trickle irrigation
watering system, fitted with a pressure reducing
valve and a timer, that are not handheld, that place
water drip by drip directly onto the soil surface or
beneath the soil surface, without any surface run
off or dispersion of water through the air using a jet
or mist;
This is a perfect description of our system, which we installed in 2017 even though that was a fairly wet summer. There are four main parts to it: first, a porous soaker hose snakes its way round the garden borders. When the water is switched on, drops of water are pushed out of the hose directly onto the soil. There is virtually no water loss - no inefficient sprays and no run-off.
A soaker hose is an efficient way to get the right amount of water directly to the plants that need it
The second part of the system waters the pots. For these we have a drip irrigation system with adjustable drippers in each pot. Again, the water is delivered directly to the plants with no waste. We bought a complete kit which included 25 metres of the smaller 7mm hose as well as all the bits and pieces to connect everything up.
A drip irrigation system, taking water directly to the soil in the pots
Pressure reduction valve
The third part of the system is a pressure reducing valve on the tap. This is more or less mandatory anyway: the soaker hose and the little valves in each pot are all quite delicate so if the pressure is too high there is a risk that the hoses would rupture. Ours reduces pressure to 1.7 bar (25 psi) which is just right. In fact we also have a second pressure reduction valve attached to the incoming main, presumably because we are in a high pressure area anyway, so the actual pressure may be even lower that 1.7 bar.

The final part of the system is a timer. We have two, one smart, the other semi-smart. The smart one is called WiseOrchard and it connects to your wifi so that it can do 'smart' things. Using an app, you tell it where you are, what kind of plants you have, some characteristics of your garden. It takes all this information, checks the weather forecast for your location, and sets an appropriate watering schedule. If you prefer to contol things manually, you can do that too, through the app.

The semi-smart timer, which we bought as a backup in case the WiseOrchard failed, is a Hozelock Sensor Controller. It incorporates a light sensor and will switch the water on for a specified time at dawn or dusk or both
And the total cost of this system?
£24 for 30 metres of soaker hose
£18 for 25 metres of narrow hose and the pot irrigation valves etc
£8 for the pressure regulator
£80 for the WiseOrchard smart valve and timer OR
£25 for the Hozelock semi-smart valve and timer

So you could have an entire system for just £75 - or the cost of about 10 decent plants from a garden centre. It's compliant during hosepipe bans and a good way to protect your investment. And even when water is plentiful (which it usually is here) it's efficient and eco-friendly - as well as being fully automated and more or less effort-free.