Wisely Preserves Our Water Resources
Everyone wants attractive
yards and green areas in their neighborhoods. We can have them and
save water too. All we have to do is water wisely by practicing
various water-saving techniques out-of-doors.
Large amounts of water
are consumed through the watering of landscapes. Outdoor watering
is estimated to account for as much as one-half of the water used
by each residence per year. Efficient watering or irrigation practices
are essential to conserve water. Overwatering not only reduces our
water supply but can result in excess water that runs off carrying
fertilizers and pollutants into our bays, lakes and rivers. Overwatering
could result in disease such as fungus and in the excessive growth
of weeds and pests.
The best time to water
is during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speeds
are at their lowest. Water evaporates quickly in the heat of the
day. When it is windy, water may not reach targeted areas or may
fall unevenly onto paved areas. If you cannot water in the early
morning hours, the next best time to water is in the early evening.
Before watering, check
the soil below the surface. Just because the surface is dry doesn't
mean that the roots need water. There may be moisture below the
surface. There are tools (such as soil probes or soil sampling tubes)
that can be used to obtain soil samples to check for moisture.
Be sure to water the
lawn only when it shows signs of needing it: edges of the blades
will begin to roll, fold or look wilted; grass will not spring back
when you step on it; or the color changes from bright green to dull
gray-green or blue. It is recommended that lawns be watered so that
the soil is moist to a depth of four to six inches. It is better
to water your lawn thoroughly (so water reaches the root systems)
once each week than to water it lightly each day. Watering lightly
could actually harm your lawn because only the surface, rather than
the roots, may be reached. Watering should be done slowly to avoid
the Right Plants
Select plants that require
less water. Many of these will likely be native plants. An additional
benefit to using native plants is that they tend to attract wildlife.
There are various guides available that contain listings of plants,
shrubs and trees that have less water requirements. They are frequently
referred to as drought-tolerant, drought-resistant or Xeriscape
plant guides. The Northwest Florida Water Management District has
such a guide available for residents within its 16 counties.
When planning your landscape
or garden, select and group plants according to their needs for
sunlight and water. Obviously, plants in the full sun will require
more water than those in shaded or partially shaded areas.
Be sure the soil contains
enough organic material such as peat or compost so that water can
penetrate to the root systems of plants easily. This will result
in less water being used. When the soil has a high clay content,
it will absorb water slowly. Sandy soil absorbs water quickly but
won't retain moisture. Adding organic material will help correct
Mulch to retain moisture
in flower and shrub beds. Shaping the soil around trees or other
large plants into basins will help catch and retain water. Mulch
also increases the attractiveness of these areas, reduces unwanted
weed growth and insulates plants from changes in temperature. As
the mulch decomposes, the organic content of the soil is increased
Which Irrigation Methods to Use
Use trickle, drip or
soaker hose irrigation systems where possible. They use less water
than sprinklers. These methods are particularly effective with areas
that require more water such as trees or gardens.
When sprinklers are used,
select one that releases water slowly and close to the ground as
contrasted with one that releases a mist which tends to evaporate
more easily. Place sprinklers at the top of sloped areas so that
the water that does run off ends up watering the entire slope.
Check your irrigation
system to be sure that the areas you want to be watered, and not
the surrounding paved areas, are being watered. Irrigation heads
should be aligned with the areas they are intended to water.
In general, use sprinklers
for lawns, bubblers for trees, drip irrigation systems for gardens
and shrubs and soaker hoses for flower beds and ground covers. Don't
forget to turn drip or soaker hoses off. A timer will help eliminate
this frequently occurring problem. Irrigation systems also can be
metered and set to deliver a specified amount of water or be time-controlled.
Any new irrigation system is required by law (Chapter 373.62, Florida
Statutes) to have a rain shut-off device or sensor that will override
the system if sufficient amounts of rain have fallen.
If water drips or leaks
from a faucet after being turned off, it could mean that the washer
is worn out and needs replacing or the faucet may be broken. Replace
the washer first before calling the plumber to replace the faucet.
Use washers between faucets
or spigots and water hoses to reduce the loss of water between connections.
Also check your hoses for punctures. Repair punctures with duct
or electrician's tape or by splicing (connectors can be found at
hardware or home supply stores).
You can take several
steps to improve the appearance of your lawn. Watering is not the
only solution. For example, aerating lawns to allow water more and
easier access to the root systems can do wonders to improve your
Cutting your lawn higher
encourages a stronger root system. Set the mower to a higher level
(two to three inches) when cutting the grass. This will help reduce
evaporation when the lawn is watered. A mower that leaves grass
clippings on the lawn helps mulch the lawn and reduces the need