Spring arrives today. At this time of year, homeowners begin preparing for summer by planting flowers and fertilizing lawns. Traditionally, the San Diego County Water Authority issues a reminder as spring arrives that we live in a desert where water conservation is a way of life. Now is also the time to begin water conservation efforts in preparation for more daylight and warmer weather. But this summer will require an even greater effort than in the past to conserve water.
Despite storm activity so far this winter, our region faces unprecedented water supply restrictions in 2008. Key reservoirs around California and on the Colorado River are still recovering from historic dry conditions. In addition, court-ordered pumping restrictions on water deliveries from Northern California went into effect at the end of 2007 and will reduce water supplies from that source by up to 30 percent.
In preparation for increased water demands this summer, the Water Authority and its 24 retail member agencies are calling for heightened awareness and increased conservation efforts, especially outdoors. The Water Authority has set a goal of saving 56,000 acre-feet of water through extraordinary conservation in 2008. It is urging residents and businesses to join the “20-Gallon Challenge” to help our region reduce its water use by 20 gallons per person per day. Water saving tips for both residents and business are available at www.20gallonchallenge.com.
Studies have shown that annually landscape irrigation represents almost 50 percent of San Diego County’s residential water usage. Longer, warmer days mean more frequent watering of lawns and landscape.
To reduce the amount of water needed, residents should consider planting low-water use, plants. Examples of plants that use less water but can still keep a garden bright and colorful are available in the Water Authority’s “Nifty-Fifty” plant brochure available at www.sdcwa.org/manage/pdf/Conservation/Nifty50.pdf . Reducing turf area by as little as 10 percent can produce significant water savings.
There are many other ways to help conserve water. Both residents and businesses should test irrigation systems for leaks, breaks and misaligned sprinkler heads to ensure that irrigation systems operate at peak efficiency. For homeowners, this can save up to 20 gallons a day per sprinkler head, and business parks, multi-family housing units and large landscape areas can save even more.
Reducing each irrigation cycle for lawn or landscape by 1-3 minutes from the normal summer schedule can save 15-25 gallons for each minute; or, eliminate one irrigation cycle per week and save up to 250 gallons per cycle.
The Water Authority also recommends that homeowners replace the back-up battery in their irrigation controller. Depleted batteries or the loss of electrical power can result in systems reverting to a default watering cycle resulting in over-watering.
Testing of soil moisture will avoid over-watering or watering before it is necessary. Check for moisture by taking a soil sample and rolling or squeezing it into a ball in your hand. If it forms a ball, rub it with your thumb. If it doesn’t crumble, it contains enough moisture to supply water to your plants.
The Landscape Calculator assists homeowners in determining watering requirements for their landscape. By answering a few brief questions (ZIP code, type of landscape, type of watering method), the calculator provides a monthly watering schedule specific to the different areas of your yard for anywhere in San Diego County.
Don’t forget to check indoors for water saving opportunities. Fixing leaky faucets or toilets can save 15 to 20 gallons a day per faucet, or up to 30 to 50 gallons a day per toilet. Washing only full loads of clothes can save 15-50 gallons per load.
In addition to implementing these simple and easy water-saving tips, residents and businesses can take advantage of vouchers and incentives on a range of water-saving devices, water use evaluations to help determine potential water savings and other conservation programs. Information on these programs and more conservation tips are available at www.20gallonchallenge.com, or contact your local water agency.
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