FAQs: Village Irrigation

VMS Landscaping Services Department Director Kurt Wiemann and his staff of 143 provide services for 12,736 manors as well as clubhouses, gates, Aliso and West Creeks, and the Equestrian Center. That includes 303 acres of turf, 158 acres of shrub beds, 142 acres of slopes, 272,038 sprinkler heads and much more. 

Some residents have inquired about the ins and outs of the Village irrigation program; here VMS provides answers to their questions. 

Why do the sprinklers run so often? 

Soil can absorb only so much water at a time; excess water runs off and is wasted. Watering several times during the night is a common practice referred to as “cycle and soak” programing, which reduces water waste by programming a fixed maximum irrigation period per station to minimize runoff. Typical spray heads are generally set at a maximum cycle time of three minutes, which is the limit of how much water the soil in the community can absorb, with a minimum soaking time of 20 minutes between cycles.

Why does the irrigation run when it is raining? 

The irrigation system run times are based on data received from our on-site weather station. In addition to measuring rainfall and windspeed, our irrigation weather station employs an evapotranspiration gauge. Evapotranspiration is the process by which soil water is transferred to the atmosphere either by the plant or directly from the soil surface. This gives detailed information into how much water the plant material needs. This process is constant and run time calculations can change daily but in summer our weather is fairly constant. A light rain will not affect irrigation much, as even a quarter inch of rain does not soak into the soil deep enough to reach the roots. Programmed cycles may run for shorter times after a light rain.

I read online that we should water during the day; why do we water at night? 

Landscape crews, painters, plumbers and electricians are out in the field during the day working in and around landscaping. Having irrigation running during the day would severely impact these operations. Also, our weather-based program may calculate a necessary total run time of 12 minutes on any spray head station. We have a large number of controllers with multiple stations that often require the program to continue to run for eight to 10 hours. We do our best to place late-running stations in less commonly used areas, such as slopes and hard-to-access areas, to minimize the impact to residents. 

There is a section by my unit that always seems to be damp and another that seems very dry. Why doesn’t the irrigation section fix that? 

Our irrigation system was designed and installed when the community was originally constructed. Our irrigation systems are set up so that multiple buildings with all four building sides are on the same station, making perfect watering patterns impossible. There will always be some areas that are watered too much in order to get enough water to dry areas. Fixing this is a monumental task. In United, shrub beds and turf areas all were originally on the same irrigation stations; we’ve been working for years, spending approximately $10,000 annually, to separate them.

I heard there were plans to install a new irrigation system. What will change? 

Our massive irrigation system is comprised of a computerized master control, 31 cluster control units (CCU) which in turn control 407 irrigation controllers, each with a range of 18 to 40 irrigation stations. There is a total of 10,463 stations (valves) using an estimated average of 26 sprinkler heads per valve for a total of 272,038 sprinkler heads. 

The irrigation master control system is owned by GRF; the rest of the systems are owned by the individual housing mutuals. The master system is outdated and mostly obsolete; staff is in the process of updating the system. The intent of the update project is to give more control to the operators. The current system requires a staff member to be in the office to monitor the system; the system has no remote capabilities or the capability to notify staff of main line leaks or other issues. It also relies on a complex and unreliable system of underground phone lines and radio frequencies to communicate with the controllers.

Why haven’t the mutuals installed drip irrigation everywhere? 

Staff has converted 381 valves into drip irrigation and 1,979 valves into low precipitation rotator heads. Drip irrigation is effective in some applications but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a high maintenance system that requires frequent adjustments and repairs. Low precipitation rotator heads are very effective in reducing water waste and require much less maintenance than drip systems. Additionally, converting to drip is a high-labor activity requiring removing much of the plant material; rotator heads can be installed on existing systems.

With all this talk of water conservation, why do the sprinklers get the sidewalks wet and some water runs down the street? 

At the time our irrigation systems were installed, little thought was put into water conservation, and this is brought to light by the issues we face now. Sidewalk overspray is an ongoing battle; the shapes of planters/turf areas are often irregular and don’t fit normal spray patterns. We are addressing this issue by slowly converting to stream heads that produce less mist and overspray. The Village also has many turf areas smaller than what spray heads are designed to cover. Staff is actively working with the landscape committees of both mutuals to eliminate these smaller turf areas.

I called in a broken sprinkler on the weekend and it didn’t get fixed until Monday. Isn’t that a waste of money and water? 

A broken sprinkler head will use $0.43 worth of water a day; it would cost the mutual $75 for a technician to come in and fix it. While it may seem like a waste of water, it is financially prudent to wait until crews are on site on Monday to fix broken sprinklers. Staff does respond to calls regarding broken main lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Who do I call when I see broken irrigation Components? 

Please immediately report all irrigation issues (leaks or broken heads) through the proper channels: Resident Services at 949-597-4600 or residentservices@vmsinc.org during daytime working hours and Security 949-580-1400 during off hours. Please give as much information as possible, including a callback number in case staff needs assistance in finding the issue.

If you have questions about the Landscaping Services Department, please contact Resident Services at 949-597-4600 or email residentservices@vmsinc.org

For more Village news, click on the tag “What’s Up in the Village” below.


Unless otherwise stated, all meetings, events and amenities are for the use of Laguna Woods Village residents and their authorized guests only.