The ongoing drought in the western states is real and has many western city dwellers, as well as ranchers, on alert. We shouldn’t be surprised about water shortages – it is a desert region after all. Add the huge increases in population growth over the past several decades and it is no wonder there is a water shortage. Meanwhile, the Midwest region of the US can have an abundance of water, especially in springs like this year. So why should we be concerned about water conservation here in central Ohio?
In a recent conversation with Glenn Marzluf, General Manager and CEO of Del-Co Water, I learned that an astounding 30 to 60 percent of the company’s water is used by customers to water lawns in urban areas. He also indicated nearly half of that water is wasted due to inefficiency!
One of the roles of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District is sharing information with our residents about the importance of conserving our natural resources. Believe it or not, there are ways to properly water your lawn. Conserving water by using proper lawn watering techniques can save some of your hard earned money. Proper irrigation means more efficient irrigation, causing less water to be used, which means less money being spent on your household water bill. If you water a lawn, flower beds or vegetable garden, here are a few recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of watering.
First, use drip irrigation, which is 90 percent efficient. That means less than 10 percent of the water used gets wasted. While drip irrigation can be a challenge due to the need to move hoses during mowing, this watering technique can reduce your summer lawn watering bill by 30 percent. If you are opposed to setting up drip irrigation, consider putting new nozzles on your sprinklers to increase efficiency. New style nozzles give larger water drops that allow the water to get to the roots easier and faster. Irrigation water from sprinklers should be limited to lawns, flower beds and vegetable gardens. All too often, lawn water sprinklers are left running all day long, with the excess water running onto sidewalks, driveways and streets. Not only is this a waste of water, but this runoff water can carry pollutants which may flow into storm drains, reducing the quality of our surface water.
Second, the most efficient time of the day for lawn watering is the early morning hours. Less evaporation happens when watering early in the morning. Some resources suggest evening or nighttime watering, but the chance of lawn fungus buildup increases during that time. To conserve water and reduce the stress on your lawn during periods of inadequate rainfall, water your lawn once per week, giving the lawn one inch of water each week. If we are getting at least an inch of rainfall during the week, irrigation is not needed and watering should be stopped until the soil dries. Allowing the soil to dry between soakings causes the roots to grow deeper in the soil, searching for moisture. Watering once per week allows the grass to grow a deeper, robust root system. Studies have shown turf grass that is watered too frequently has less root density, causing it to quickly struggle during hot and dry summer weather.
Finally, reduce the need to water the lawn by setting your mower deck height between 3 – 4 inches and cut no more than one-third of the leaf tissue in one mowing. Grass clippings contain nutrients that can be used by growing plants. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn rather than bagging or raking them. This is a very environmentally friendly practice to use each time the lawn is mowed.
By following these simple steps, you will be conserving water and saving money, too. And you can give yourself a big pat on the back for helping us help the land.
For more information on water conservation, go to www.delawareswcd.org and the Del-Co website at www.delcowater.com.
Brad Ross is a Communications Specialist for Delaware SWCD.