Throughout the growing season (March through October) Stephanie Duer, Salt Lake City Public Utilities Conservation Program Manager, will offer periodic tips on how to use water wisely both inside and outside the home. This is the first installment.
With our canyon snow pack at just 50 percent of normal, we anticipate a lower-than-expected spring runoff this year. Still, gardening season is just around the corner, making this a good time to think about water conservation for our landscapes. We can all take simple steps to use less water and to help stretch our water supplies. The good news is you don’t have to rip everything out, and the better news is that your existing landscape could be healthier for having less water. Whether you’re dealing with an established landscape or starting from scratch, here are some ways to reduce water demand:
- Select plants that are appropriate for the region. Our summers are hot and dry, and winters are cold with little snow cover, so plants need to be tough to survive. For information and inspiration, visit here to view beautiful, water-wise landscapes growing and thriving right here in our valley.
- Group plants with similar water and light demand. Plants differ in their needs for water or sun. By grouping plants with similar needs together, you not only save water, but lessen the frustration that comes with having plants fail because they are over or under watered, or not getting the right light. Learn more about this landscaping technique, called hydrozoning.
- Control the controller. Irrigation controllers only save water if they are operated properly. Typically, households with automatic sprinkler timers use, and waste, more water out of doors than households without, mostly because controllers are not reset as the weather changes. Utah State University Extension offers great tips on wise use of irrigation. And you can also register there for a free sprinkler check to make sure your system is operating efficiently.
- Maintain irrigation systems for highest efficiency. New or old, all irrigation systems benefit from proper and regular maintenance. At least once a month—perhaps when you get your water bill—turn on your irrigation system and check for misaligned, broken, or missing sprinkler heads, and make the appropriate repairs. Check to see that sprinkler heads are spraying plants and not driveways, streets and sidewalks.
- Mulch it up. Adding a layer of mulch or compost three- to four- inches thick around trees, shrubs, and perennials will keep the soil cool and reduce water loss from evaporation. Place the mulch under the plants’ canopy, but keep the trunk or crown of the plant free from mulch. An added bonus is mulch will also help to reduce weeds and improve soil quality.
Every Drop Counts
Since the Department of Public Utilities began a formal conservation program in 2000, our water customers have reduced water consumption by nearly 30 percent (from 154 gallons per day in 2000 to 106 in 2016). But we all can, and should, do more. Working together, we can save water this summer and every summer—whether or not there’s a drought—because every drop of water counts.
Contributed by Stephanie Duer, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities