landscaping techniques to solve property problems

landscaping techniques to solve property problems

Canal/Secondary Water Vs. Drinking/Culinary Water: Which System To Choose For Irrigation

Mitchell Ray

If you're buying a home in an area that offers pressurized irrigation, also called canal or secondary water, your house might not already be hooked up to that system. Older houses in areas that have only recently added pressurized irrigation, and newer homes that have yet to be hooked up to the system, would use city drinking water for all needs, including watering lawns, unless otherwise requested. That means you have to choose between the two systems because using city drinking water for everything can become expensive, not to mention it puts a strain on the amount of available drinking water. At the same time, canal  water has its own drawbacks. Here's a look at the two and what you need to consider.

Types of Water Needs

Likely the biggest issue with canal or secondary water is that it's not drinkable. This is not water you use for cooking or drinking; if you hooked up your home to the canal system, this would be water for landscaping use. (Note: not pool use!) Canal water is often available at cheaper rates than drinking water, so using canal water for watering a large lawn could help your bills stay a lot lower. Plus, you'll conserve drinking water. If your landscaping water needs are limited to lawns, non-edible plants, and similar features, asking to have your home hooked up to the pressurized canal system would be advisable.

However, using canal water for edible plants can be tricky. Canal water is not like raw sewage, of course, but it's not treated to drinking-water quality. It's also in open canals, meaning anything can enter the water, from dying birds that fall in to people throwing litter into the water. Agricultural runoff can be an issue, too.

Whether you can use the canal water for edible gardens relies on a few factors:

  • What's upstream from you? If there are no potential sources of pollution like sewage treatment plants or farms with pesticide runoff (the occasional dead bird, for example, is not something you can really predict, so don't count it here), the canal water is likely OK to use with some restrictions.
  • What irrigation will you use? Those aforementioned restrictions include not letting the water touch the edible parts of the plant. In fact, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare warns that "Irrigation water for edible crops should not come into direct contact with edible parts of the plant unless the crop will be peeled, skinned, or cooked before eating." Drip irrigation is a suitable choice if you have canal water. If you were planning to use sprinklers or a hose, though, canal water would not be a good choice.
  • Where will the edibles be? If your yard is mainly lawn with some container plants well away from the edge, you could use canal water for the lawn and drinking water in a watering can for the containers. If the edibles border the lawn and are subject to spray from the sprinklers, that's not a good thing if you use canal water.

Canal Water Quality

In addition to potential pollution, canal water can be very hard or very soft, too hard or soft to really be healthy for plants. Talk to neighbors who have lived in the area for a while and see if they have had any problems. For example, if they tell you the canal water killed their lawns because of the high concentration of minerals in the water, you might want to stick with having all your home's water systems connected to the city's drinking water system.

Off-Season Use

Canal water is often limited to late spring, summer, and early fall. In spring, the dam that holds the water in the area starts releasing water into the canals; in fall, the dam shuts off the flow. If your sprinklers are hooked up to the canal system, you're not going to get water from the system for months. While the weather will likely make that a non-issue in several areas -- canal systems tend to be in northern regions where the growing season has a distinct start and end -- that could be a consideration if you want to plant things that survive beyond the fall cutoff or that start growing before the spring release.

You may want to talk to sprinkler companies, such as Steeplechase, to see if they have had issues with the canal water. They can also give you advice on what to do to protect your sprinklers after the canal water is shut off.   


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landscaping techniques to solve property problems

The landscaping in your yard can do much more than make everything look pretty. Do you have areas of your property that remain soggy long after the rains have passed? Are there areas that get washed out during storms? Are there some places that simply aren't usable when you want to use them? Our blog will provide you with several ideas for using landscape design to make areas of your property that aren't currently usable into areas that are enjoyable, beautiful and maybe even increase the value of your property. We hope that you find the solution to whatever problems you are having right here.