As summer’s heat fades, the San Diego County Water Authority encourages residents to assess their outdoor watering needs and adjust their irrigation systems to reduce water waste. The end of daylight saving time on Nov. 4 offers homeowners, gardeners, landscape contractors and facility managers a reminder that plants and lawns don’t need as much water during the winter months.
Outdoor water conservation
“This is a great time to make sure irrigation systems are working properly and delivering the right amount of water,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chairman of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Each drop we don’t use today will be available next year when the temperatures rise again.”
Torrid weeks in August and September capped a dry 12-month period in the region when precipitation was about 25 percent below normal. County residents used 7 percent more water in September than they did in the same period a year ago as they struggled to keep their plants alive. Even with the uptick, homes and businesses in San Diego County are consuming about 37 percent less water per capita today than they did in 1990.
Soaring temperatures and dry weather also have taken a toll on water levels across the Southwest. Key reservoirs in California measured an average of 63 percent full at the end of September, down from 88 percent from a year earlier. And in the Colorado River Basin, the 2012 water year concluded Sept. 30 as the third driest since 1963. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has estimated that inflow into Lake Powell in October – the first month of the 2013 water year – would be 39 percent of normal.
Reservoir levels should rise with winter rain and snow, but the projected level of precipitation in coming months remains uncertain. The National Weather Service said the current El Niño weather phenomenon is weak, creating the possibility for a relatively dry winter in the mountains of Northern California and the Colorado River Basin that produce about 70 percent of the water used in San Diego County.
“We are hoping for a big snowpack, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare for drier conditions by taking simple steps now to trim water use during the cool part of the year,” said Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the Water Authority.
Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of a typical household’s water use in California. Making seasonal adjustments to irrigation controllers can help reduce water waste, manage regional water demands and lead to healthier landscapes.
Money-saving water management practices include turning off irrigation systems when rainstorms are predicted and leaving them off for at least a week after significant rainfall.
In addition, residents can get help evaluating their irrigation systems using the city of San Diego’s online Watering Calculator at http://apps.sandiego.gov/landcalc/. Residents and businesses also may request a WaterSmart Checkup for single-family homes or commercial landscapes – a free service offered by participating water agencies. WaterSmart Checkups provide ideas for improving water-use efficiency, such as fixing leaks, upgrading hardware and swapping out grass for low-water-use plants. Details are at www.20gallonchallenge.com/programs.html.
Fall is the ideal time for replacing water-intensive landscapes with landscapes that feature best practices in design, irrigation, plant choices and maintenance. The Water Authority’s free publication, “A Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape,” offers step-by-step instructions on how to plan, design, install and maintain a water-efficient yard. The guide is available as an online flipbook at www.sdcwa.org/landscape-guide.