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September 2013 Water Conservation QuarterlyWater Conservation September 2013 water water management for a sustainable future conservation Lake Oswego www.lowaterconservation.com Let’s Talk Water Fall Changes Kevin McCaleb, Water Conservation Coordinator 503-675-3747 kmccaleb@co.oswego.or.us With the end of the summer season approaching, this is a good time to change the settings on your irrigation controller to prepare your landscape for the fall season. In September, outdoor watering should be about two-thirds the amount that it was in August. During this time of year, plants are beginning to cycle into dormancy and require less water than in the height of the summer growing season. Dormancy in plants is triggered by shorter days and less direct sun more so than by temperature. So even if we have hot days in September, it does not mean that we need to water more. In September, the days get noticeably shorter, the sun’s position moves lower in the horizon making the sunlight less intense and less direct, and the temperatures at night become cooler. These changes are a signal to the plants to begin winding down and get ready for winter. Leaves will slowly begin to change color and, by the end of September, the process will have increased toward its natural conclusion, and plants will go dormant regardless of the temperature outside or the amount of water applied. At this time of year, the water we put into the ground also remains in the soil longer. This occurs because the plants use less water as they prepare to go dormant and less water evaporates due to the shorter days and less intense sunlight. In addition, September rainfall levels are typically double what they are in August so there is more rain water available to the plants. Due to these facts, your plants need less irrigation water to remain healthy. Continued on page 3 Continued on page 4 Selecting a Landscape Contractor As we place more emphasis on the conservation of our water resources and encourage steps to reduce the use of irrigation water, it is becoming more apparent that many of our irrigation systems are in need of upgrades. Weather-based controllers, soil moisture sensors, multi-streamed rotating nozzles and a host of other technologies and practices are available today that are not commonly used among Lake Oswego residents and can help to better manage water and reduce waste. Hiring a professional who understands the way water works with plants and soils and who can translate that knowledge into equipment selection, installation and management is critical to the health of your landscaping and the health of your pocketbook. 2 Water Conservation Conservation Efforts Pay Off It has been a hot summer. Plus it may turn out to be one of the driest in recent memory. Our last significant rain occurred on June 26, and we have had only negligible rainfall totals since that time. A normal July and August typically yields an average of about 3/4 of an inch of rainfall each month. As of mid-August this year, we have had less than 1/10 of an inch. We are not the only area experiencing dry weather - the U.S. Drought monitor lists 90% of the state of Oregon at abnormally dry or above. For more information, visit http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/DM_state.htm?OR,W. Throughout this dry period, I am proud to say that the community has done an exceptional job at conserving water. Daily consumption has been within the treatment plant’s capabilities, and we have not experienced the massive peaks in water use that were common during previous summers. Construction on the new water system improvements is underway and, as a byproduct of the community’s water management efforts, staff has been able to keep the water flowing without interruption. Three times in August Operators had to turn the river intake and water treatment plant off for several hours to accommodate construction activity on the new River Intake Pump Station. If water usage in the city had been at the peak levels that were observed several years ago, the City would not have been able to accommodate the necessary outages without depleting water storage levels. Rain Sensors Installing a rain sensor can lower your summer water usage by 10% or more depending upon the year. The City still offers these devices to customers for $5 ($25 to $50 retail). Pick one up today on the 3rd floor of City Hall and get started cutting your summer water usage. Oregon Stonecrop Scientific name: Sedum oreganumFamily: Crassulaceae Category: Evergreen groundcoverHeight: 3 to 6 inchesBloom time: All summerFlowers: Yellow becoming pinkish with ageSun exposure: Full Sun This native sprawling succulent grows on sunny talus slopes or rocky areas throughout Western Oregon and also does well in the home landscape. The leaves grow in fleshy, very tight rosettes which are edible. One plant will spread from 12 – 23 inches. Small star-like yellow flowers grow in clusters and attract butterflies. It especially does well in areas that get full sun and tend to be dry due to sloping or rocky conditions. It also looks great in containers with other drought tolerant plants. Give it regular watering the first summer to establish a good root system and then reduce watering after that. This plant is very drought-tolerant so do not overwater once established. This is truly a “carefree” plant. Plant them in mass groupings to really show off the flowers. 3Water Conservation Did you know that one of the most effective ways to reduce your water use may be to replace or upgrade an aging, inefficient irrigation system? The easiest way to select an irrigation contractor is to check the phone book or perhaps get a reference from a friend or neighbor. Another way might be to call ads in the newspaper or on bulletin boards. However, how can you be sure that person will do a good job? Although there is no way to absolutely guarantee the contractor you select will indeed be the best, here are a few tips to help you narrow the field. 1. Certified Contractors. Look for contractors that have specialized irrigation training. The Irrigation Association has a listing of certified professionals that can be searched by state. http://www.irrigation.org/Certification/Find_a_Certified_Professional.aspx 2. Licensing. A licensed contractor is typically one that has appropriate insurance and bonding to protect you and your property from liability during construction. A licensed contractor is also registered with the state, town or county and allowed to perform work under their business ordinances. While licensing does not guarantee the quality or integrity of a company, a licensed contractor is likely to be committed to the area for the long term. If the quality of the workmanship or the execution of the project is questioned, hiring a licensed contractor has built-in remedies. These safeguards protect your investment. 3. Get information from at least four companies. Give each of them a call. Are you referred immediately to someone that can help you? If you leave a message, do they respond quickly? 4. Explain the scope of work. When you speak with a contractor or representative, briefly explain the scope of your project - be general, simply lay out an overview of the project so they have an idea of the extent of work to be done and when you would like it completed. This will help the contractor commit staff to the project and determine what materials, if any, are required. 5. Communication. Does the contractor understand what it is you are asking them to do? Are they asking questions of you and providing you with suggestions and/or explaining alternatives thoroughly? Are you comfortable with them? It is very important that both you and the contractor are in sync on the scope of the project, its installation and performance. Start dates and finish dates are very important. 6. References. Ask the contractor to provide a list of some clients they have worked for in the past that you can use as references. Be specific about what type of work you are looking for. A landscaper does not necessarily have sound irrigation experience and vice versa. 7. Do some checking. Drive by some of the addresses you get for references. How do the properties look? If they give you some phone numbers, call and ask how their individual experience was. Were they happy with the finished product? Are the contractors readily available to answer questions or solve problems? 8. Make a selection. Be sure that you get the cost and project completion date on paper. Be certain that everything you have asked to be fixed, repaired or installed is working properly before you pay that last bill. Selecting a ContractorContinued from page 1 Water Audits Offered Through October 11 The City of Lake Oswego will continue to offer individual water audits until October 11. If you have received a letter from the City, or find yourself hitting that water usage 3rd tier, call Kevin at 503-675-3747 and get an audit scheduled. Customers that have taken advantage of this program are averaging savings of 23%. 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 Here are some easy steps to take to help reduce your September water costs: Cut the days you water by one quarter. Do not reduce the length of watering time because it is still important to water deeply, but it is not necessary to water as frequently. For example, if you water 7 days a week, for 30 minutes each day, reduce this to 5 days a week, 30 minutes per day. If you water 4 days a week, reduce this to 3 days, and so on. You should be able to reduce watering by another 25% or more by the middle of September. By the first week in October all scheduled watering can cease. At that time your irrigation controller should be off and you should only water if the soil is dry down to 6 inches deep. Irrigation systems should be off and winterized by October 15. New plantings may still need to be supplemented by hand watering depending on the specific plant. Check with your nursery or a plant guide for specific instructions on watering new plantings. Let’s keep striving to make our watering habits work in sync with what nature provides us. All of the little things we do will add up to savings on our summer water costs and will make our landscapes much more durable and hearty. Water conservation is not about doing without; it’s about doing well with what you have. Now is the time to plan your native garden With fall on the way, now is a good time to start planning a native garden! Native plants will not only enhance the beauty of your yard, they will attract birds, butterflies, bumblebees and a host of other “good” bugs, and help you reduce your water usage. In addition, they help control erosion and run off, and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers that can eventually end up in our streams and lakes. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start to plan. Choose the right plant for the right space: Know the growth tendencies and characteristics of the plants you intend to put into your garden. For example, some yards can handle the spreading nature of natives like Thimbleberry or Baldhip Rose but these may be too invasive in smaller yards. Pay attention to specific sun or shade requirements, soil requirements and the mature size of the plant. Some may do better planted in masses. Foamflower, which is one of our delicate flowering perennials, stays quite small with small flowers and would get lost in a larger planting bed. Salmonberry, however, looks like a delicate shrub but can get up to ten feet tall and ten feet wide! Know when to plant: In our region, the best time to plant natives is in the late fall when the soil moistens up. Planting can continue through most of the winter. Native plants will add root growth throughout our wet winters and will be better prepared to handle the dry summers. Purchase plants in one gallon containers so they already have sizable roots. Planting Tips: Plant in groups of 3-5. This will help to attract insects. If your soil is heavy clay, you may want to add some compost, but fertilizing is not usually necessary. To get your plants well established, continue to water them as needed for the next two summers and then watch for signs of wilting. Start planning now and you will be on your way to a low maintenance, less expensive landscape that brings the beauty of our natural areas close to home. For help, contact The Backyard Habitat Certification Program. They can help you choose those plants that are best adapted to the sun, soil and space that you have. The program for Lake Oswego is managed through the Friends of Tryon Creek, www.tryonfriends.org. The cost is $25 and includes an assessment visit, a site report with a specific plants list, discount coupons and many resources to get you started. Foam flower Baldhip Rose SalmonberryThimbleberry