Water Conservation Tips for the Outdoors
If you rely on watering to make your lawn grow and your garden productive, consider a more efficient system. There are several ways to improve the use of water AND save money:
Use Water Again
When it rains, if no water recycling system has been planned, the water that runs off your house keeps on going to the storm sewer. By saving and reusing water on your garden or lawn later, you can save both energy and water. A simple recycling system directs water from downspouts to a storage barrel and carries the water to your garden. This is a simple and effective system, however you may want a more elaborate method of capturing and re-distributing rainwater.
Watering to Save Energy
Whenever practical, water in the early morning. You’ll lose less water to evaporation than if you water in the middle of the day, and the plants are also less stressed making them able to take up the water more efficiently.
Mulch or fiber cloth preserves soil moisture. You can find supplies and information at a nursery or hardware store.Consider planting native species. They usually use little or no water beyond normal rainfall.
Drip Irrigation Benefits
A drip irrigation system will provide water directly to the plant, and allows you to control the flow to each plant.Drip irrigation ranges from inexpensive soaker hoses to elaborate, computerized systems. There may be an up-front investment, but you’ll use less water and have better water distribution.
Garden and hardware stores will have the supplies you need. You may even want to engineer your own system from a garden hose. Be sure not to over-apply fertilizer when using a drip irrigation system.
The Conservation District provides free drip irrigation design assistance. A list of drip irrigation suppliers and contractors is also available by calling the District at (307) 772-2600.
Reducing Water Usage In Your Yard
For a typical water user, lawn watering accounts for nearly half of the water used by most homes. You can save money and water, and still have the best- looking yard in your neighborhood by following a few simple suggestions:
- Many residents water too often and leave sprinklers on too long. The goal of lawn watering should be to apply the minimum required for the lawn to maintain health, vigor and an acceptable appearance.
- Plant water-conserving turf grasses as an alternative to the traditional Kentucky Bluegrass. Each of the grasses discussed below has its own unique characteristics. Certain terms however, are generic to all grasses. For example, grasses are either cool-season or warm-season. In the Cheyenne area, a cool-season grass will normally begin to turn green in early April and will stay green until a killing frost. Warm-season grasses green up around early June and will usually go dormant in August. Because they are active for a shorter period of time, warm-season grasses also tend to require less maintenance than cool-season grasses. They also use much less water.
- Grasses are also characterized as either sod forming or bunch grass. A sod-forming grass will spread via stolons or rhizomes, eventually forming an interwoven mat of grass. A bunch grass will not spread; each grass plant remains separate from its fellow plants.
Properly tended, each of the following grass alternatives will form a lush, un-thirsty lawn:
- Kentucky Bluegrass: If you already have a bluegrass lawn, some simple guidelines for watering are as follows: First, please note that your lawn probably needs less water than you think. During the summer months (June, July and August,) a healthy, thick bluegrass lawn will require approximately .20 inches of water per day or about 1 to 2 inches of water per week (remember to subtract any rainfall from these amounts.)
- As a rule of thumb, water should be applied by watering once a week for clay soils and twice a week for sandy soils. However, longer periods between watering may be possible. A good way to minimize water application is to wait for water stress to appear in the lawn. Water stress indicators include drooping, color change, or footprints that remain in the lawn. Some dry areas generally will appear between watering due to spots with poor soil, poor distribution of water, or other reasons. Water these areas by hand by a drag hose to minimize water use.
- If larger areas than desired show signs of water deficiencies, decrease the time between major irrigations. However, be careful to avoid applying more than 1-2 inches of water in any week.
Steps to measure sprinkler output
- Follow these steps just once, and you will know how much water your sprinkler puts out. For example, if your sprinkler delivers 2 inches of water per hour, and your lawn needs 1 inch, then you need to run your sprinkler for 30 minutes that day.
- Set out 3 or 4 identical cans (i.e. tuna cans) within the sprinkler’s spray and run it for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the sprinkler and pour the water from the cans into one can. With a ruler, measure the depth of water in the can. Divide by the number of cans, then multiply by 4 to find out the amount of water the sprinkler puts out in one hour.
Water Conservation for the Indoors
Use the following tips to conserve water inside your home:
- Recycle water from fish tanks – use it to water plants. Fish emulsion is a good, inexpensive fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphorous.
- Don’t let the tap run every time you want a drink. Fill a pitcher with tap water and put into the fridge.
- Repair leaky faucets. One leaky faucet can use up to 4,000 gallons of water per month.
- Install faucet aerators. These inexpensive devices can reduce water use up to 60 percent, while maintaining a strong flow.
- When cooking, save 10 to 15 gallons of water per meal by peeling and cleaning vegetables in a large bowl of water instead of under the running tap.
- Hand washing dishes saves 15 gallons per load, not to mention hot water costs.
- When buying a new dishwasher, select one with a light-wash option. Newer models use 20 percent less water than older ones.
- Take short showers instead of baths. Showers use an average of 5 to 7 gallons per minute, three times less than the water used to take a bath.
- Install a low-flow showerhead. This will cut water use in the shower to just 3 gallons per minutes and still provide an invigorating flow.
- Turn off water to brush teeth, shave, and soap up in the shower.
The District has water test kits available for pickup at the office furnished by the Wyoming Dept. of Ag Analytical Services in Laramie. Tests need to be in Laramie Monday-Thursday, as tests are not done on Fridays. For information on this service, call the lab in Laramie at (307) 742-2984, or the District office at 772-2600.