chuck stoody/canadian press


Ann Rowan, director of the sustainability program for the David Suzuki Foundation, displays a type of lawn sprinkler she says should not be used in the interest of conservation.


Every neighbourhood seems to have a water-waster: The guy whose sprinkler soaks passersby on the sidewalk, or the woman down the street who waters the lawn so long it becomes spongy.

But pouring precious high quality drinking water on lawns and gardens is turning into a hot-button issue as the planet heats up.

Evaporation of moisture from the soil and plants is expected to increase, meaning more water will be needed. But pressure is mounting in some locations for sharp cutbacks in sprinkler use, say environment experts.

Unless people reduce water usage, municipalities will have to keep building bigger facilities to filter water — a huge expense leading to higher taxes, they say.

The demands on sources of drinking water are growing, says Ann Rowan, director of the Vancouver-based environmental group David Suzuki Foundation’s sustainability program.

“All the water we use in our houses is up to drinking water quality,” she points out. So is the water used by industry and other commercial outlets, schools, hospitals, trains and planes.

Companies that make lawn sprinkler systems are already responding to the possibility of water shortages with new innovations.

Gardena Canada Ltd. is introducing a sprinkler system this spring that follows the contours of homeowners’ lawns so that water isn’t wasted by hitting fences, driveways or patios.

The AquaContour sprinkler comes with a keypad and is computerized, allowing homeowners to water virtually every garden shape up to about 380 square metres. It’s mobile so it can be placed in the best position.

It has 50 key contour points with individual spray ranges of 2.5 metres to 11 metres, says Sterling. It also handles two different garden shapes for the backyard and front lawn that can be easily programmed and recalled.

The sprinkler, which costs about $180, also comes with moisture sensors that work from both the soil and the surface.

The sprinkler will come on when moisture drops below a certain level. If it starts raining, the sensor will turn the sprinkler off.

The system also allows people to run pumps from rain barrels.