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March 2013 Water Conservation QuarterlyWater Conservation March 2013 water water management for a sustainable future conservation Lake Oswego www.lowaterconservation.com As we move into the season of using more water, a way to use less water is to reduce the amount of area in a yard that needs higher levels of water. An objective look and decisions on where to spend a “water dollar” can cut water use dramatically in the summer. Some places to look are turf or planting beds that never seem to be healthy in their current location. These can be located on steep slopes, under evergreen trees where the shedding needles and/or deep shade makes the soil virtually unsuitable for turf. It may be an area surrounded by asphalt or concrete that causes the bed to overheat and burn up whatever is planted. Perhaps the planting is in rocky areas or amongst Let’s Talk Water Plants to help you lower your “water dollar” tree roots where the soil is shallow and the plants are unable to get what they need. Native grasses may be the answer to solve many of these problems. When watering hillsides, excess water flows over and not into the soil. In some cases this may make the soil unstable and prone to erosion. Native grasses commonly have root systems that can go deeper into soils than traditional lawn grass varieties, and they have a tolerance for a wide range of soil types. This makes these grasses an excellent option to help hold soils in place. Kevin McCaleb, Water Conservation Coordinator 503-675-3747 kmccaleb@co.oswego.or.us When it comes to outdoor irrigation systems there are many statements about their capacity and quality that may not necessarily be true. People may claim that if you use this type of system over that one you’ll save money or your water wasting days are over. While there may be some validity, sprinkler means managing leaks. Unexpected and unplanned for leaks often go unnoticed until one gets a massive water bill. (Less than 50% of leaks will ever reach the surface). These leaks can be managed just by reading your meter once or twice a week. This creates an early alert system which can greatly minimize a leak’s impact on the pocket book. Typically about one in four households in Lake Oswego have leaks and that can be one reason for sending summer water use into the 2nd or 3rd tiers of water consumption and billing. A Managed System system equipment may have a smaller impact on water use than one might think. The truth is that all irrigation systems, regardless of type or style, are a system of designed leaks or holes in a pipe. This is true whether it is a hand held hose nozzle or a complex system; whether it is conventional or drip. While there are products and accessories that can help, ultimately the good or the bad of an irrigation system is really up to the user and how the system is managed. Managing an irrigation system also Continued on page 2 Continued on page 3 2 Water Conservation Lower your “water dollar” Continued from page 1 Grasses make great filters for rain gardens and good choices for planting along sidewalks and road edges or as accents to established gardens. Native grasses also provide habitat for many species of bird and other Oregon wildlife. Early spring or late fall plantings are best for good seed germination and root establishment. In addition to the featured grasses to the right, American Sloughgrass is another good option. American Sloughgrass is an annual grass that can be found along the edges of lakes, ditches and ponds, in sunny locations that may be lightly shaded. It is an excellent source of food for birds and small mammals and will grow up to three feet tall. It tolerates acidic soils with above average amounts of saline. It can also grow in semiarid ground and is either a cool season annual or a short- lived perennial grass. Scientific name: Beckmannia syzigachne Type: Native Grass Cycle: Annual 3Water Conservation In Lake Oswego, nearly one in four homes that undergoes a water audit by the City’s Water Conservation Coordinator has a leak. Whether it is a leaking toilet, a dripping faucet or a leak in an irrigation pipe, leaks waste a lot of water and are a major cause for water usage and bills being unrealistically high. Nationally, the EPA estimates that residential leaks waste a trillion gallons of water annually. That is enough water to supply all of the water needs of Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami combined. Every year the EPA calls attention to this phenomenon with the Fix a Leak Week. This year, join with your neighbors to look for and repair costly leaks and have some fun at the same time. To learn more about how to detect a leak, go to www.ci.oswego.or.us/publicworks/water-leaks. Fix a Leak Week Let’s Talk Water Continued from page 1 So what can be done to better manage irrigation systems? • Regular monitoring is the most important thing. Management tips on the web are useful, but the best tool is your own two eyes. If you periodically operate your sprinkler system and observe how it is functioning, you can prevent a lot of waste from broken sprinkler heads, broken pipes, and poorly adjusted sprinklers. Making corrections on the spot and consistently all season long can save water. • Check out the City’s weather stations for real-time climate data: www.ci.oswego.or.us/publicworks/ weather-stations-and-climate-information. You may find that enough rain has fallen over the past day/ week that you don’t need to turn your irrigation system on at all for a while. No need to use water and spend money when Mother Nature gives it to us for free. • Research how much water your plantings need. If there are plants in a zone with very different watering needs consider moving or replacing them. All the plantings in your yard may not need to be watered on the same days. Check the depth of the moisture in the soil with a probe or screwdriver. If it is moist down to the depth your plant needs then turn that zone off. • Sometimes in the spring and fall it is better to operate your sprinklers manually. Length of day, amount of moisture and heat can affect the amount of water you need to provide. Typically until mid June putting your controller on automatic is pretty much unnecessary unless you are heading out of town for an extended period of time. Most controllers made today have manual buttons on them. If yours doesn’t have one, consider purchasing a controller that does. It is important to use the least amount of water possible. Plants that are watered too much do not develop deep healthy roots. This year, be proactive. Schedule an audit, purchase and install a rain sensor from the City. Check out the Conservation web site at www.ci.oswego.or.us/ publicworks/water-conservation-program for free stuff, incentives tips and workshops. With just a little effort, irrigation systems can be managed better and more economically. Weather station at Westlake Fire Department 4 Water Conservation 380 A Avenue, PO Box 369 Lake Oswego, OR 97034 General Information: 503-635-0270 Water Conservation Information: 503-675-3747 Confused about drip irrigation and its benefits? You are not alone. All irrigation systems have good and bad characteristics. If installed properly, designed correctly and managed well, drip systems are potentially the best water distribution systems. Unfortunately, quite often they fall short of that potential as drip systems also require considerably more monitoring. Because of their less visible installation, damage and malfunctioning equipment may not be as easily seen. For that reason, drip may not be the best system for everyone. If you are thinking of installing a drip system, or considering converting your conventional system to drip, here is a brief summary of what they can and can’t do. Remember there is no such thing as an automatic system and that drip, like conventional irrigation systems, require periodic maintenance to keep them functioning at their best. Drip Irrigation What you need to know Soaker hose - should not be confused with drip irrigation Line source drip irrigation Point source drip irrigation • Inline systems are comprised of tubing or pipe with emitters (holes) either cut in or with apparatus inserted at even spaces along the tubing that allow a measured amount of water to be released. (Do not confuse this with soaker hose. Soaker hose does not have regulated holes nor is the spacing measured). • Point source systems utilize a soft walled line with barbed fittings, emitters and other apparatus inserted as needed. Water is placed at the point of need i.e. the plant, shrub etc. • Line source systems work well in area applications where plantings are dense with minimal open space between. They also work well in closely planted lines of shrubs or trees. They do not do well in sparsely planted beds due to water being lost from emitters not in line with a plant. • Point source systems work well in all planting applications if designed and installed properly. • Both types require pressure regulation to maintain adequate flows. • Both require specialized design and installation to insure the individual plants are receiving proper amounts of water. • Drip lines are not designed to be buried, but can be lightly covered with mulches or bark which makes damage hard to detect. • Both systems require regular monitoring and frequent maintenance. Both types are vulnerable to animal damage, especially in the summer when alternative water sources may be less available. Malfunctioning equipment and/or damage often times is not easily seen. Losses to plants and/or water can be extensive if damage is not discovered early. Breaks in lines can be particularly damaging on hillsides. • Neither system does well in high traffic areas. • Both types can be used to establish plantings on steep slopes where their low application flows tend to be less likely to create erosion. There are two basic types of drip systems: inline (line source) and point source emission systems.