The days are getting shorter and the weather cooler. In the autumn, lawns and gardens throughout the San Diego region need less water. As San Diegans prepare to set their clocks back Sunday, Nov. 4, the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member retail agencies recommend water users also "fall back" on landscape watering times. Homeowners, gardeners and landscape contractors all are encouraged to adjust residential and commercial irrigation systems to reduce watering times and days.
"Minimizing over watering is an easy way for people to help meet the 20-Gallon Challenge, our region's voluntary water conservation campaign," said Vickie Driver, principal water resources specialist for the Water Authority. "Not only will this produce significant water savings for the region, but it will also be better for landscapes and help reduce water bills."
Landscape watering accounts for almost 50 percent of San Diego County's residential water use. Over-watering, which occurs mostly during the fall season, can be as damaging to vegetation as under-watering.
Homeowners should begin now to gradually cut back watering times by approximately 10 percent every two weeks until winter rains arrive. As they reduce water times, they should continually monitor soil moisture to prevent stress. Signs of stress include wilting and/or a lack of luster in leaves or blades of grass.
"Check for moisture by taking a soil sample and rolling or squeezing it into a ball in your hand. If it won't form into a ball, it's probably too dry," said Driver. "If it forms a ball, rub it with your thumb. If it doesn't crumble, it contains enough moisture to supply water to plants. Sandy soils are the exception as they will always crumble, even when wet."
By watering in the evening or early morning, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. when there is less wind and evaporation, homeowners can save water. The Landscape Calculator will assist homeowners in determining watering requirements for their landscape.
Information on obtaining a free residential landscape survey is available at: www.sdcwa.org/manage/conservation-overview.phtml#landscapeassistance Homeowners may also go to www.20gallonchallenge.com for a list of agencies offering weather-based irrigation controller vouchers. Weather- based controllers automatically adjust the amount and frequency of watering based on weather conditions, reducing water costs by as much as 20 percent. For more information on these controllers go to: www.sdcwa.org/manage/conservation-smartcontrollers_single.phtml.
Water users should also replace the batteries in irrigation controllers at this time.
"Just as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors has become routine with the time change, homeowners should install fresh batteries in their irrigation timers," said Driver. "If the batteries fail, irrigation systems will over-water, often without the homeowner even being aware of it."
The San Diego region's water agencies are supporting the 20-Gallon Challenge voluntary water conservation campaign in response to dry conditions and court-ordered pumping restrictions that are set to take effect by 2008. These conditions present significant challenges to meeting the region' s water needs next year and make it essential for residents, businesses and public entities to increase water conservation immediately. The 20-Gallon Challenge aims to reduce the region's water use by 20 gallons per person, per day.
For tips on water conservation and the 20-Gallon Challenge, visit www.20gallonchallenge.com or contact your local water agency.
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