The Pitfalls of Design Build Irrigation

Many irrigation projects utilize water management consultants; however, the majority of irrigation installations do not. Constraining budgets often stimulate the use of performance specifications or design-build by irrigation installers. As a result, the project’s efficiency goals do not become a reality. 

Unfortunately for the Green Industry, building codes and laws generally do not apply to landscape irrigation installation. In other words, the decision to be a responsible and sustainable installer is voluntary. Additionally, intense competition within the economy encourages inefficient installation in efforts to save money up front and win a potential bid. Although there are many professional irrigation installers highly capable of fulfilling efficient designs, money wins the fight and water conservation takes a back seat. 

The Difference between an Irrigation Designer and an Irrigation Consultant

An irrigation consultant’s role goes way beyond even the highest qualified designer. While an irrigation designer composes an effective irrigation design and specification, consultants contribute additional “value added” services that may include:

  • Master Planning
  • Water use and supply evaluation 
  • LEED calculations
  • Pump System Design
  • Alternative Water Supply Analysis
  • Bid Evaluations 
  • Installation Observations


Even if you are lucky enough to find an installer that is qualified to design efficient irrigation, there are many benefits and cost savings you could miss out on. For example, water use consultants will not have any product ties to a manufacturer or distributor. By using the most appropriate products for the specific landscape and situation, the client’s best interests is top priority. A water use consultant may also specialize in a specific aspect of an irrigation project that is beyond that of an irrigation designer including; LEED credits, rainwater harvesting, or green roof irrigation. 

When to Bring In the Irrigation Consultant

It is important to bring the irrigation consultant into a project as early as possible. If brought on board to solve problems later on in a project or even after installation, the consultant’s work will likely be more expensive and possibly include issues that could have been prevented beforehand. The sooner the irrigation consultant can be involved in discussions regarding a project the more input and expertise they can provide, many times identifying potential problems or alternative approaches before any money is spent. This is even more important in LEED and alternative water supply projects such as rainwater collection.

Ideally, water management consultants are able to be involved during the master planning stage. By bringing a comprehensive approach to the project, these experts evaluate various components such as project phasing, budgets, water supply, and future expansion. Although it may not seem important, a consultant’s insight can be extremely valuable, especially with large project planning. Time, effort, and expensive change orders can be greatly reduced by working with one of these water management specialist. 

The consultant should be knowledgeable about all phases of installation to keep distributors and installers from stretching the truth about products or installation practices. The consultant should also be aware of what products best fits a particular project or site and what products are commonly used locally.

Precious Resource

We all know that water conservation is important, but rarely is water-conserving technology found in irrigation systems. The irrigation consultant is up to date on the new technologies in the industry that truly conserve water such as SMART controllers and moisture sensors. Proper design and operation can help conserve water for the life of an irrigation system, maybe costing more up-front, but saving many times the extra cost over the life of the irrigation system.

In today’s water conscious world, effective and efficient irrigation design is essential. The best way to achieve that is with the input of an experienced irrigation consultant. When the consultant is brought in early and empowered to use well established best practices for design, bid evaluation, construction management and operation, the results the client is looking for can be achieved.

Please contact Water in Motion to discuss your project needs.