Tag Archives: efficient watering

Coping With the California Drought

Coping With the California Drought

You may know that California is in a particularly intense drought right now. If you live in California, you had better know that, as things are bad enough that watering incorrectly can cause you to be fined. I’m fortunate enough to be in an area where it isn’t as bad as it is elsewhere, as we rely less on imported water and more on wells that apparently aren’t in bad shape yet, but we’re still being strongly encouraged to conserve. Given that no one knows when this particular California drought will end, it’s important that everyone do their part.

Watering outdoors less is a big part of it. Most areas are restricting watering days and times, and homeowner’s associations aren’t currently allowed to enforce rules against brown lawns. It’s a temporary rule, of course, and I can’t help but wonder how fast HOAs will be putting out fines once it expires, regardless of whether or not the drought has continued.

One big thing to do is to check for broken sprinkler heads and pipes. I found out that in addition to a couple broken sprinkler heads, a tree root has broken one of our sprinkler pipes. We’re having a guy out soon to fix it, though it may be partially under the sidewalk and a bit of a pain to fix. I check the sprinklers a few times a year, and this is the worst round I’ve ever had to deal with. To keep our water use under control, it’s necessary to keep up with the problems.

You should also mow your lawn higher, and that’s something I’m going to catch the yard guy about, because he mows us really low. I think a slightly taller lawn is prettier, and it’s also more water efficient.

We do a cycle and soak watering for our lawns. This takes advantage of the sprinkler system’s multiple start times, so each section gets just a couple of minutes of watering before it goes to the next, then the system starts over again. This allows the soil to absorb more of the water and reduces runoff.

Can’t We Just Cut Out the Lawns?

If we weren’t renting, we’d be doing things a lot different, drought or no. I’d much rather have the front yard xeriscaped than deal with a lawn. I like a bit of lawn in the back as a place for the kids to run and play. It’s a big part of why I really don’t want to live in a HOA controlled area – I want more flexibility in how my property will look when I own it.

I would love to see would be a big push for more xeriscaping, especially in new developments. Make it harder for homeowner’s associations in new neighborhoods to require a lawn. Well done xeriscaping takes very little water or maintenance, yet looks very nice.

Artificial turf is another idea, although some HOAs have rules against it. I believe ours does, as the house across the street had some artificial grass for a few months, then real stuff was put back in. I’m generally more in favor of real plants – they’re better in pretty much every way so far as I’m concerned, save water use – but if you must display a green lawn, that artificial stuff starts to look pretty promising. Personally, I’d rather not have it, but there are times when I understand why one might choose it.

Indoor Water Use

There are ways to save water indoors as well, of course. Shorter showers, don’t let the water run while handwashing dishes,only wash full loads of dishes or clothes,make sure your water-using appliances are efficient, things like that. There are a lot of good tips at http://saveourh2o.org/content/home. Most changes you make indoors will only save a small amount per use, but it can really add up.

A lot of these changes we’ve long since made in our family or just never done any other way. I don’t think I’ve ever just let the water run while brushing my teeth, for example – that never made sense to me.

What About Big Agriculture?

I know a lot of people want agriculture to do their part, as California agriculture uses way, way more water than goes to residential use, but that’s a harder change to make. That’s changes over huge areas of land, I would imagine with significant equipment and personnel costs. Farmers can’t just water less and expect their crops to still grow. Certainly I believe they could water more efficiently, but not quickly. It’s much simpler for residents to change their own watering habits quickly, which I believe is a part of why there has been so much focus on residential use.

Are You Watering Your Garden Efficiently?

In most places in the United States we’re lucky. Clean water is readily available. It means we can easily garden and not worry so much about if we’re being efficient about it. But many areas are increasingly dealing with stressed water supplies, and it’s expected to get worse in years to come.

Now is a great time to get into the habit of watering efficiently in your garden.

A simple way to water garden plants more efficiently is to use a soaker hose. Rather than spray water up into the air, it delivers water directly to the ground. It’s slow, of course, but you lose much less water to evaporation. You turn the water on a very low setting, so even though it takes more time to water the plants you’re using less water. Just set a timer so you don’t forget what you’re doing.

Another step you may be able to take is to catch rain water. Some states have very strict rules about rain water capture, so you have to do research to ensure that your rain barrel system is legal. But if you can legally capture the water, it’s a wonderful way to keep watering your garden.

It’s also a good idea to look at garden plants that are right for the climate in your area. You don’t want a garden that needs tons of water if you live in an area that is prone to droughts or water restrictions. Know the planting zone you live in and pay attention to that when you buy seeds and plants. And don’t ignore any local issues that may make it wise to be still more cautious with your garden.

Mulching the soil around your plants also allows you to water less. The mulch will help slow evaporation, so once again you can save water.

If you’re planting a food garden, there’s only so much you can do about water use. There aren’t many people who can successfully plan a xeriscape vegetable garden. You’re probably going to need to use water to get a good harvest.

But if it’s more decorative, take a good look at native plants. Look at drought resistant plants if you live where that’s likely to be a problem. Really think about what’s going into your soil.

This kind of planning is a help in decreasing how much water you use for the more decorative parts of your garden. Plants whose water needs are more in line with what comes naturally to the area will thrive with much less effort on your part. You can find beautiful native plants in most areas.

Don’t give up entirely on gardening if you have the space just because you want to save water. Gardening is a wonderful way to keep in touch with nature and to help children to really appreciate nature. You can maintain a lovely garden and be wise in your water use.