Conservation – (kŏn’sûr-vā’shən)
It is the responsibility of all neighbors to conserve water. While we may feel that we have more than sufficient water in the winter, with warmer and drier summers and climate change, conservation will benefit us all. This page offers some suggestions for neighbors to participate in this effort.
Why Should We Conserve Water?
Like many things around us, we seldom appreciate what is plentiful and easy to obtain. And what could be more plentiful than water, at least in our part of the world? To get water all we do is just turn on the faucet 24 hours a day and it’s there, ready to use and even drink. But think again — the water we use doesn’t just magically appear.
Treated water is a carefully produced product which appears in your home only after traveling through miles of pipeline and treatment processes. It’s a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted.
Just 1% of the entire water supply in the world is available for human use — the rest is salty or locked in ice caps and glaciers. This small 1% keeps all the world’s agricultural, manufacturing, community and personal household and sanitation needs operating. We actually drink very little of our processed “drinking water”; around 1% of all treated water. The rest goes on lawns, in washing machines, and down toilets and drains!
As concern for our environment has increased in recent years, so have the federal and state demands on our local water system, which increase the cost to the customers. In the face of rising costs for water, conservation can be a way to help the environment and monthly water bills. You pay for every drop, whether it’s used wisely or wasted, so water conservation is something we should all practice.
When you conserve water, you also save on other services. When you use less hot water, there is less energy needed to heat that water, thereby reducing your gas and electric bill. When you use less water, you also put less water down your sewer drains, thereby reducing your sewer bill. By implementing a simple conservation program, you are helping the environment by helping ease the burden on water storage, distribution and treatment facilities.
Saving Water Indoors
1. Reuse water.
Instead of letting water go down the drain when you are washing vegetables, collect it and use it for watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.
2. Verify that your home is leak-free.
Many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
3. Check for dripping faucets.
Replace washers on dropping faucets. Faucets that drip at the rate of one drop per second will waste 2,700 gallons per year. This adds to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or strain your septic system.
4. Check for leaks in toilet tank.
Add food coloring to your toilet tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded or bent parts. Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available and easily installed. (Flush as soon as test is done, since food coloring may stain the tank.)
5. Do not flush unnecessarily.
Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
6. Use ultra-low-flow shower heads.
Replace your shower heads with ultra-low-flow versions, and limit shower time.
7. Stopper tub before turning on bath water.
Do you use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/3 full? The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later.
8. Use water while waiting for it to warm.
Do you let water run while shaving or washing your face? Brush your teeth first while waiting for water to get hot, then wash or shave after filling the basin.
9. Check that all household faucets have aerators installed.
10. Use dish and clothes washers only when they are full.
Properly set the water level for the size of load you are using.
11. Fill sink when washing dishes by hand.
Fill one sink or basin with soapy water and quickly rinse under a slow-moving stream from the faucet.
12. Store drinking water in fridge rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water.
13. Defrost food overnight rather than using running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods.
14. Limit use of kitchen sink disposal.
Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Use yard waste for food scraps, or start a compost pile if you have a proper space on your property. Garbage disposals can also add fifty percent (50%) to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems.
15. Consider an instant water heater for kitchen sink.
This appliance will not only save water, but also energy since it heats up only the water that is needed and not the hot water lines in your house.
16. Properly insulate hot water pipes.
You’ll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.
17. When adjusting water temperatures, try turning water flow down.
If the water is too hot or cold, turn the offender down rather than increasing water flow to balance the temperatures.
18. Check toilet handles for running water.
Check for sticking toilet flush handle that is letting water run constantly, replace or adjust it.
Checklist for Saving Water Outdoors
1. Properly water lawn.
As a general rule, lawns only need watering every five to seven days in the summer. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for as long as two weeks.
2. Water in the early morning. This reduces losses from evaporation.
3. Position sprinklers to avoid watering your street, driveway or sidewalk.
4. Use water-efficient sprinklers.
Check that your installed sprinklers are the most water-efficient for their specific use. Micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.
5. Ensure sprinkler systems and timing devices are operating properly.
6. Use mower blade at three inches or more.
A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely-clipped lawn.
7. Limit use of fertilizers.
The application of fertilizers increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers which contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
8. Mulch to retain moisture in the soil, and control weeds that compete with pants for water.
9. Use native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees.
Once established, they do not need to be watered as frequently and they usually will survive a dry period without any watering. Group plans together based on similar water needs.
10. Sweep instead of hosing down driveway. Using a hose to clean a driveway can waste hundreds of gallons of water.
11. Use shut-off nozzles on hoses and turn off when finished.
Check that your garden hoses have shut-off nozzles installed that can be adjusted down to fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, “Turn it Off” at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.
12. Check irrigation equipment.
Check hoses, connectors and spigots regularly and use hose washers between spigots and water hoses to eliminate leaks.
13. Use a timer when watering.
Check for unattended sprinklers or hoses. Your garden hoses can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours, so don’t leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off
6 Steps to a Healthy Lawn
Healthy lawns grow on healthy soil. These practices, recommended by turf professionals, will help build fertile soil and vigorous deep-rooted lawns. Healthy lawns can resist disease and drought damage and out-compete most weeds, without reliance on chemicals.
Scientific studies have shown that many commonly used lawn chemicals (such as pesticides, quick-release fertilizers, and “weed-and-feed” products) can kill beneficial soil organisms and contribute to soil compaction, thatch buildup, and lawn diseases. They may also harm human health, pets and wildlife, and contaminate streams and lakes. For a healthy, attractive lawn that’s easy to care for, follow these proven practices:
1. Mow higher, mow often and leave the clippings
Set mowing heights at 2 1/2 to 3 inches for most lawns. Mow when the grass gets 50% taller than the desired height. Mow regularly, even on summer-dormant lawns, to keep weeds from setting seed.
Leave the clippings on the lawn: “Grasscycling” provides free fertilizer, helps lawns grow greener and denser, and doesn’t cause thatch buildup. (Thatch is last year’s woody roots and stems, not clippings.) Mow when the grass is dry and keep mower blades sharp for best results.
When it’s time to buy a new mower, consider a “mulching” mower. They chop clippings finely and blow them down into the lawn so they disappear.
2. Fertilize lightly in the fall with a “natural-organic” or “slow-release” fertilizer.
Natural fertilizers release nutrients slowly through the year, won’t leach away, and support the variety of soil organisms that improve fertility and combat diseases. Healthy lawns are a lighter “meadow” green color. Deep blue-green lawns are over-fertilized and unhealthy: more prone to disease and thatch buildup and drought damage. Fertilize lightly!
Fertilize in the fall to build the grass plant’s nutrient reserves. Never fertilize in early spring because that makes grass grow too fast and robs its reserves. Late spring and early fall are O.K. to fertilize too, but late fall is the single best time. Remember, grasscycling returns valuable nutrients to the soil every time you mow! Add lime in the fall or spring, if a soil test shows a calcium deficiency or acid soil.
3. Water deeply, to moisten the root zone, but infrequently.
Grasses do best when the whole root zone is wetted, and then dries out between waterings. Avoid frequent shallow watering that causes poor root development. Over-watering also promotes lawn disease.
Aerate (or dethatch) if water won’t penetrate the surface because of soil compaction, steep slopes, or thatch buildup.
Water about one inch per week in mid-summer. Water slowly, or start and stop, so the water penetrates rather than puddling and running off. Don’t water in the heat of the day, that promotes disease and wastes water.
Consider letting the lawn go brown and dormant in the summer. Watering deeply (but slowly, so it penetrates) once each rainless month will help dormant lawns to recover better in the fall. Avoid heavy traffic that can damage dormant lawns, or water just the play/high-use areas to prevent damage.
4. Improve old lawns with aeration, over-seeding, and top dressing with compost.
Aerate in spring or fall. Use a rented power-aerator for best results. Or insert a garden fork 6″ deep every four inches and lever back to loosen the soil.
Over-seed, after raking or aerating to expose soil, with a rye/fescue mix designed for Pacific Northwest conditions talk to a knowledgeable nursery-person or call WSU Cooperative Extension (296-3900) for seed recommendations.
Top dress with fine compost (screened to 3/8 -inch) one-quarter inch deep, raked out so the grass stands up through it. May or mid-September are the best times for aerating, over-seeding, and top dressing.
De-thatch in early spring if thatch accumulations over 1/2 -inch thick, or decompose thatch slowly by aerating and top dressing. Over-seed after de-thatching, to keep weeds out. Reduce fertilizer levels and over-watering, and aerate if needed, to avoid future thatch buildup.
5. Avoid using pesticides, quick-release fertilizers, and “weed-and-feed”.
These products can damage soil and lawn health, and pollute our waterways. Pesticides and “weed-and-feed” may also harm people, pets, and wildlife. Accept a few “weeds,” particularly clover that improves the soil. Target the ugly weeds, leave the others.
Remove weeds by hand in spring and fall (pincer-type weed pullers work great in moist soil), or spot-spray problem weeds (read and follow herbicide label warnings).
Crowd out weeds by growing a dense lawn. Mow higher, leave the clippings, fertilize properly, and improve thin areas with aeration, overseeding and top dressing.
6. Consider alternatives to grass for steep slopes or shady areas.
Grass grows best in well-drained soil on level or gently sloping areas, in full sun. Call WSU Cooperative Extension (296-3900) for information on alternative plants that do well on shady, steep or wet sites.