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June 2014 Water Conservation QuarterlyWater Conservation June 2014 water water management for a sustainable future conservation Lake Oswego www.lowaterconservation.com Getting a different bang for your Landscape water dollar Let’s talk water Kevin McCaleb, Water Conservation Coordinator 503-675-3747 kmccaleb@ci.oswego.or.us Every spring I look at my yard and all of the winter’s accumulation of weeds and branches that need to be pulled or pruned, soil that need turned, grass that needs cut, fences that need painting, and I wonder if it’s worth spending so much money and time on it every year. With water rates on the rise and all of the impending inflation of costs for services, amendments and accessories, why should I even bother? It makes no sense to spend all that time and money and get nothing back but the occasional comment from family and friends, and the grunts of satisfaction from my dog while he scratches his back on the fresh cut lawn. Even so, just like years past, I will tackle it again. Continued on page 2 A variety of leaf lettuces, spinach, larkspur and fennel bulb.Continued on page 4 Test your soil before you amend As you prepare your landscape for the summer months, take a moment to evaluate how much fertilizer and other amendments you apply every year and the cost associated with those applications. Amendments are necessary for many lawns or gardens, however, the incorrect and overuse of soil amendments can be harmful to both your pocketbook and your natural surroundings. How can you determine the amount that you really need? If you are like many people, you follow a tradition or schedule that you’ve used for years, or you follow the recommendations of your landscape services provider. While nitrogen, potassium and even phosphate may be necessary at times, if you are applying amendments without evaluating your soil and the health of your plants, you are only guessing that it is needed. Adding more amendments than your lawn or plants need may affect things other than just your lawn. Where will the excess end up? Soil amendments not used by the plants will end up in the water system (groundwater, streams, 2 Water Conservation or Oswego Lake) or the atmosphere and in some instances both. As nitrogen breaks down in the soil, nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide gas is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. In the water system, nitrogen and phosphorus can fuel algae blooms. When those algae die, they sink to the bottom and the bacteria that causes decomposition consumes dissolved oxygen in the water. If the amount of algae is excessive, the process can reduce or even deplete the available oxygen content of the water and suffocate fish, clams and other aquatic life. This process is known as eutrophication and it creates hypoxic areas (no oxygen) or dead zones. Dead zones exist off the coast of Oregon and Washington and in many of the Great Lakes. While some of this process occurs naturally, much of it is caused by nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from agriculture and urban landscapes that washes into river systems and lakes. Algae can also lead to operational and economic impacts to our drinking water system. Did you know that Lake Oswego’s water intake screens on the Clackamas River clog with algae every few years? This inhibits our ability to pump water into the water filtration plant and ultimately the City’s water system. This can result in economic damages as well as environmental. Currently, lawns are the largest irrigated and fertilized crop in the U.S. with more than 40 million acres under production nationwide, compared with less than 26 million acres producing corn, soybeans, fruit, nuts and alfalfa. As good stewards of our resources, we can do our part in the cycle to reduce the amount of nutrients and chemicals that run off our home landscape. Get your soil tested. Carefully follow application instructions for soil amendments to avoid over- applying and consider organic alternatives to landscape management. The Oregon State Extension Office can help you find a source to analyze your soil. For more information, visit www. metromastergardeners.org/. Soil TestingContinued from page 1 The City is also offering free home testing kits to help determine if your property requires any additional nutrients. 1 http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/n2o.html 2 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-dead-zones/ 3 http://scienceline.org/2011/07/lawns-vs-crops-in-the-continental-u-s/ Believe it or not, almost 95% of the state of Oregon is experiencing dry conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, half of the state is in either a severe drought or an extreme drought. For those that rely on the Clackamas River for water we need to be mindful that the flows this summer could be a bit lower than normal. Let’s make sure we monitor water use closely this year. • Don’t run sprinklers so long that water runs off of your property and out into the street. • Adjust and monitor sprinklers to keep water on the areas that need it –not the street or driveway. • Install a rain sensor to prevent watering during a rain event or immediately after. • Stress manage your lawn (not dormant or brown, just a paler shade of green). Cut the number of days you water your grass by a third. If you water every other day, this year water every third day. Use the percentage button on your controller to adjust the times. • Keep an eye out for leaks. Check your meter monthly. • Read your water bills and especially the usage graph. • Get an audit scheduled. Call Kevin at 503-675-3747. • Control peripheral usage: Sweep instead of hose. Wash your car on the lawn or at a carwash that recycles water. Sources: Yes Virginia, there is a drought 3Water Conservation Think you might have a water leak? Take a look at your water bill and compare usage 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 to be unrealistically high. Nationally, the EPA estimates that residential leaks waste a trillion gallons of water annually. The City recently switched from bi-monthly to monthly utility billing and the response has been very positive. One advantage to switching to monthly billing - in addition to customers seeing smaller, more regular bills - is that service time and payment amount are better linked. This allows unintended use to be detected sooner. Check your water bill each month. The bill has a chart that shows the past 13 months of water usage. Compare your current bill to the last bill for the same month. Is your usage in a similar range? If not, and you don't know why, check for a leak. If your usage level seems higher than you think it should be, check for a leak. Pin-pointing where a leak is coming from can be difficult since less than half of leaks ever reach the surface. You may need to contact a professional to help you accurately locate the leak. Companies that specialize in leak detection can be found in the phone book or on line. To learn more about how to detect a leak, go to www. ci.oswego.or.us/publicworks/water-leaks. Once you have located the leak, getting it repaired quickly and properly is the next step. Repairing waterline leaks can be difficult if you have little or no experience, and it may be in your best interest to hire a professional. If you do hire a contractor, be sure that they are experienced and licensed to do this type of work in Lake Oswego. If you need additional assistance, please call Kevin McCaleb, Water Conservation Coordinator, at 503-675- 3747, or the Operations Water Department at 503-635- 0280. Appointments to check for a leak can be scheduled Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You may also submit a request for a water leak check through our Citizen Request Tracker: http://or-lakeoswego.civicplus. com/RequestTracker.aspx. Property owners are responsible for maintaining plumbing from their meter to the fixtures throughout their house and yard. The City is responsible for maintaining the system from the meter to the street. It’s coming on summer – and that means storm drain marking season! Have you seen this marker in Lake Oswego? Now that we’re looking forward to the warm, dry weather of summer, you can help us get the storm drain inlets noticed in your neighborhood. It’s a great neighborhood activity that can help keep our streams clean. Volunteer groups are needed to attach these buttons to curbs near storm drain inlets. These buttons remind us all that rainfall runoff can wash soil, yard waste, fertilizer, motor oil, and other pollutants into our waterways or groundwater. So help remind us all that these drains are for RAIN WATER ONLY! We have markers for four different watersheds in the City, and can supply your group with instructions and necessary supplies. Contact Anne MacDonald, our Stormwater Quality Program Coordinator, by email at amacdonald@ci.oswego.or.us or 503-675-3999, to get started. 4 Water Conservation 380 A Avenue, PO Box 369 Lake Oswego, OR 97034 General Information: 503-635-0270 Water Conservation Information: 503-675-3747 Let’s Talk WaterContinued from page 1 Einstein said that to use the same methods and expect a different outcome is the definition for insanity. So this year I’m going to try something different. I am going to plant edibles in with my ornamentals. Yup, this year I plan to eat my yard; at least some of it. I’m not going to keep my garden boxed up in little raised beds. Nope this year I’m going to set it free. I want a yard that is a garden, not a little garden in my yard. I want a “yarden.” This year I want to reap what I sow and what I sow, I hope to sow unconventionally. I want to plant blueberries for hedges, strawberries for ground covers, onions and tomatoes, peas and beans will all be in my yarden. I’ll plant corn to create screens, Kale and rhubarb for interest. I’ll plant marigolds, nasturtiums, lavender, garlic, basil, bee balm and a host of other plants and herbs - many of which are edible themselves - throughout my yarden to help keep out the bad bugs and entice the good ones. I want to harvest my crops and eat them without worry. I want to cut down on my use of pesticides. I want to add beauty to my home but I will also provide some healthier food options for myself and my family. I will tune up my sprinklers and adjust my watering schedule so that very little of the water I pay for will be wasted. I want very little of what I add to my yard to end up in the lake or river. I will mix clover into my lawn and into my yarden to help hold down weeds and replenish the nitrogen in the soil. I want to be able to stroll around my yarden and snack on its bounty without worry. I want to know that the water I am using and paying for is, at least in part, helping me to cut costs somewhere. I intend to have some fun this year, care to join me? Here are some great links for edible landscaping and plants that help control insects. • www.rosalindcreasy.com/edible-landscaping-basics/ • www.edible-landscape-design.com/ • www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/edible- landscape-zmaz10onzraw.aspx#axzz31ceEmEXR Send me some pictures of your edible landscapes, and we’ll post some of them on the website.Many edible plants are “beautiful enough for the front yard,” as are these nasturtiums. Audit Season The City is currently accepting calls from customers who would like to have a water audit of their residence or business in Lake Oswego. The City offers these services free of charge to any Lake Oswego water customer. Residential customers that used this service and made the suggested changes are enjoying reductions in water usage averaging 20% or more for most participants. Commercial customers can schedule these audits and see benefits as well. This year let the City help you make some changes to your water usage habits. The Public Works Department has incentives in place to help you get started. Just call Kevin at 503-675-3747 to schedule an audit. This is a list of entities that could benefit by an audit, and a list of some of the other incentives available from the City. For more information on what products are available, go to www.ci.oswego.or.us/publicworks and click on Water Conservation. • Hotels/Motels showerheads, faucet aerators, rain sensors • Restaurants/Lounges faucet aerators, toilet/urinal incentives, spray down nozzles, rain sensors • Offices toilet/urinal incentives, faucet aerators, rain sensors • Stores/Shops toilet/urinal incentives, faucet aerators, rain sensors • Warehouses toilet/urinal incentives, faucet aerators, rain sensors • Gas Stations toilet/urinal incentives, faucet aerators • Medical/Dental Facilities showerheads, faucet aerators, rain sensors, toilet/urinal incentives • Schools/Daycare Facilities showerheads, faucet aerators, rain sensors, toilet/urinal incentives • Assisted Living Facilities showerheads, faucet aerators, rain sensors, toilet/urinal incentives Installing a rain sensor can lower your summer water usage by 10% or more depending upon the year. The City offers these devices to customers for $5 ($25 to $50 retail). Pick one up today on the third floor of City Hall and get started cutting your summer water usage.