Did you know that half of Albuquerque homeowners do not have an irrigation system? We’ve been talking to hundreds of homeowners, and it turns out that the reason they haven’t installed one in their yard is they think an irrigation system for a typical lot (1/8 acre or 10,000 sf) will cost $5,000 or more. The good news is this is a myth! The cost for one fully installed irrigation drip system plus a controller/timer is between $1,350 and $1,900. Prices will vary depending on the size of your yard, the complexity of your water connection and if you want to add additional valves for irrigating plants with different watering needs, such as existing mature trees, vegetable beds, container plants or a turf grass lawn.

Here is what a typical irrigation system looks like. Do any of these elements look familiar to you? Perhaps you have a residential backflow preventer in your own yard and didn’t realize it or you thought it didn’t work because you’ve turned on the timer in your garage and nothing happens.            

Many homes already have one or a couple of residential backflow preventers in the yard that are no longer in use. A local irrigation contractor usually can get those back up and running and include a new stub out for drip irrigation.

For those homes that don’t have any existing irrigation remnants, you’ll need to start from the beginning. One drip irrigation system is generally all you will need in a desert-friendly xeriscape for a 1/8 acre or smaller yard. Drip irrigation is the recommended method of delivering water to all your plants and trees (but not turf grasses).

You’ll want to install one backflow preventer with one valve to run the drip system in the yard. A ¾” distribution polyline is connected to the valve. The polyline, which winds all around the yard, has ¼” spaghetti tubing connected to it so water gets directly to the plants. Due to our typically high water pressure, most drip irrigation systems require a pressure regulator to slow the water pressure, thereby reducing the chance of the drip emitters getting popped off the line. 

Here is a breakdown of the costs:

One automatic residential backflow preventer with valve and pressure regulator with stub out to future dripline. $600-800 installed (includes parts and labor).

¾” dripline polyline connects to the stub out of a new valve or from an existing one and winds around the yard. Add ¼” spaghetti tube with drip flag emitters on the end to water each plant in your yard. $400-600 installed (includes parts and labor).

One automatic irrigation controller/timer (Smart Controller that connects to the Internet and your smartphone). $350-$500 (includes parts and labor) (rebates available)

A regular controller costs $350 (includes parts and labor).

Before hiring an irrigation designer and/or contractor, it’s advisable to ask them specific questions so you can make wise choices about design options and the kind of equipment you need. Click on this link to access a helpful guide put together by the Irrigation Association as developed by Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Adding an irrigation system (especially a drip system) means watering your plants using the least amount of water to provide optimal health. It is making sure that every drop of water you use goes to where it is needed and can be used most effectively by your plants. An irrigation system conserves water, produces a healthier landscape, saves time and is not as costly as you think!

Author:  Jill Brown, ASLA. Landscape Architect and Owner of My Landscape Coach The prices quoted here are based on my experience as a landscape professional in the Albuquerque market. Prices will vary, of course, on size, complexity, and availability.  Have a question about the article? AskAnExpert@abcwua.org