This summer, resist the urge to splurge on water!

In 2018, we are experiencing yet another hot, dry summer season. So far this summer, our water source - the Clackamas River - is holding its own, but its flows are dropping daily. While there are no indications that curtailment (water restrictions) will become necessary, there is always concern as we cross into the latter part of the season. Currently, the City’s water demand is up about 20% and while we always expect a rise in usage during the summer, we know there is more we as customers can do to lower that peak. Here are some tips to help you keep your costs and water use down during this current hot and dry spell. Let’s work together to get through this hot season and be good stewards of our water!

Turf Grass: In this heat, the grass may not look perfect, but that is absolutely normal. Our grass varieties are typically “cool season” types and as the name suggests, they do not like heat. Their natural defense is to go dormant (not dead) and turn brown in the summer. Try to avoid increasing run times more than about 30% on the grass zones. Continue to apply the water at no more than three or four days a week. The grass might look a little rough this summer, but it won’t die and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg in summer water bills. The rains will come again this fall and your grass will green up as it always does. For more help, read the June 2018 Water Conservation Insert. Use these steps to help you build a schedule for your yard.

Shrubs: Most large, well-established shrubs will handle the heat fine. You may see some leaf drop, droopiness and color changes, but that is in most cases, very normal. These are ways the plants defend themselves in periods of excessive heat and drought. When you look at the foliage of a shrub and see about 10% or less of it showing some of these signs, consider it normal. If you see more than that, it may be time to water. Shrubs need deep infrequent watering, so consider raising the minutes on the timer and extending the days between cycles. In these hot afternoons, leaves and branches will often droop or fold their leaves. This happens so as to reduce the area being affected by the intensity of the sunlight and heat. It does not necessarily mean they are dying or starving for water. Always look at your plants in the morning, when the sun is less intense and there are cooler temperatures. If you see droop then it is time to water. A good strategy is to look up your plants online and learn where they originated and their individual physiology, root depth etc.  This will help you understand what they need in the way of care.

Spend your water dollar where you live: Outdoor areas around patios and decks are good areas to invest your water dollar. About 10’ out and around a patio or deck, grass and water using shrubs can reduce air temperatures by as much as 10 degrees. As the water is evaporated from the leaves of a plant, it pulls off heat as well - much like the old evaporative coolers (swamp coolers). Make a deal with yourself to reduce the usage on other areas of your yard that do not benefit you as much, and keep a cool outdoor area to enjoy during this hot spell.

The City is committed to working with you to help manage your water efficiently. If you have questions please feel free to contact Kevin McCaleb, our water conservation specialist at, or call 503 675 3747 to schedule a FREE water audit!