Ask Eartha: Stop watering the sidewalk and other tips for common sense water usage
High Country Conservation Center
With our water situation so critical, why are there not more water restrictions being placed on our community?
— Carol, Breckenridge
Summit County temperatures shot up in recent weeks, and I’ve noticed a lot more sprinkler systems running at all times of the day. Midday watering is not only wasteful, it’s against the rules for you and your Breckenridge neighbors. But what if you don’t live in Breckenridge?
Every water department or provider has different rules, which can be confusing. Frisco, for example, has water conservation written in the town code, and the rules vary based on the flow in Tenmile Creek. East Dillon Water District, which serves the Summit Cove area, has voluntary restrictions in place from May 1 through Sept. 30. Other water providers — the county has about 19 — can enact voluntary or mandatory restrictions at any time.
These restrictions often focus on outdoor watering, and that’s a good place to start. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, as much as 60% of a household’s total water use occurs outdoors. To find the rules in your neighborhood, ask your water provider, which is the entity to which you send payments. Condo and townhome residents can ask their homeowners association.
No matter where you live, it’s worth checking out some of Colorado’s most common restrictions. Think of these suggestions as practical advice to keep your lawn healthy and your sprinklers working efficiently, no matter the current drought conditions.
Heck, I’d call some of these “restrictions” plain, old common sense.
No need for daily watering
For some Colorado providers, watering is limited to certain days of the week. Some homeowners may balk at such a “restriction,” but the fact is that lawns should not be watered daily.
Longer, less frequent watering promotes deeper root growth, which acts as a defense system in dry periods. When plants have longer roots, it’s easier for them to take in moisture from deep in the ground. But if your plants have shallow roots (encouraged by frequent, light watering), they won’t be able to take in enough water from the top of the ground, which is the first place to dry out. This is especially impactful in dry climates like ours.
The early bird wins
Watering restrictions, whether voluntary or mandatory, typically take aim at midday watering, and for good reason. It’s wasteful. Think about our afternoon rain showers, and what happens to puddles when the sun comes out: The water evaporates quickly. The same happens when you water your lawn in the middle of the day.
While most restrictions seek to limit midday watering, I’ll take it a step further and recommend you water only in the mornings. Wind often kicks up later in the day and can blow water where you don’t want or need it, like the sidewalk. Additionally, keeping your plants dry overnight helps prevent fungus.
Listen to technology
To stick to your watering schedule, a sprinkler system can make life easier. Systems can be scheduled to water at certain times or in certain areas. Those drought-tolerant wildflowers don’t need nearly as much water as your grass, and you can set a sprinkler system accordingly.
However, these systems must be maintained in order to limit water waste. And add-ons like rain sensors can ensure you’re not watering during a thunderstorm. The EPA estimates an automatic irrigation system improperly maintained and operated can waste as much as 25,000 gallons of water annually. That’s enough water to get you through more than eight months of cooking, dishwashing, showering and all your indoor uses.
One way to prevent that kind of waste is through a Slow the Flow sprinkler checkup. It’s a free assessment for customers of the Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne water departments.
Appointments include a visual inspection to pinpoint system problems, tests to measure water flow and distribution, and soil sampling to determine root depth and soil type. You’ll even get a customized watering schedule to help reduce your use while keeping your lawn healthy.
Even without restrictions in place, I’d urge common sense. That means no watering the sidewalk. And if you, or your neighbors, have an automatic sprinkler system, sign up for Slow the Flow at HighCountryConservation.org/water.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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