Water Conservation Focus Area

DroughtSignsFinal1Tips for Water Conservation

Watering lawns can be both time consuming and costly. We want to help you find the balance between water conservation and sustaining an attractive, healthy landscape.

You know it is time to water your lawn when it becomes a dull green, and footprints remain in the grass when you walk on it. Expect to water 2-3 times a week, applying about ½ inch of water. More frequent light watering encourage shallow roots, which make grass less drought tolerant. For this “deep watering,” a typical spray type sprinkler can take 15-30 minutes.

To determine how quickly your sprinklers achieve that depth, place an empty tuna can under the spray.

Watering during the early morning, evening, or at night makes the best use of the water you apply. During the hottest part of the day, much water is lost to evaporation.

And, don’t forget the trees! They are actually our biggest investment; a lawn can be reseeded in a year, but trees may take decades to replace if lost to drought. Deep water trees 3 times a month during the summer to a depth of 12 inches in the dripline area. (This is the area from the trunk out to the edge of the limbs.) For evergreens, extend the water to 3-5′ beyond the drip line on all sides of the tree. A soaker hose coiled around the tree works well, but avoid applying water right at the trunk, to prevent rot.

Here are some other water conservation tips for your lawn and yard, as well as in your home.

In the Yard

It is very likely that you are over-watering your lawn, perhaps by as much as one third.

  • Read The Water Watcher column in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin (UB) for water use guidelines for the week and yard care and water savings tips.
  • Follow The Water Woman column in the UB for information, insights on water conservation.
  • Visit xeriscape gardens to see which plants thrive with low water.
  • Water early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night to limit the evaporation during the hot part of the day.
  • For hanging plants, place ice cubes on top of the soil to give them a drink without overflow.
  • Avoid watering on a windy day.
  • Use an empty tuna can to monitor how quickly your sprinkler achieves your moisture goal.
  • Cut your grass to 3 inches in height, to provide shade for the ground underneath. Use a self-mulching mower, or leave the clippings, to retain moisture.
  • Pruning properly can help your plants use water more efficiently.
  • Install drip irrigation so that water is targeted for your garden and not the weeds.
  • Use a soaker hose, which can be laid out around the plants and moved as needed to water the entire garden.
  • A deep soaking once a week is more effective than a shallow one daily.
  • Cover bare ground with mulch or wood chips to retain moisture.
  • Plant slopes with plants that will retain moisture and help prevent runoff.
  • If you drain your kid’s pool, pour it under a tree.
  • Use native or xeric plants whenever possible.
  • Add organic matter to the soil to increase moisture absorption and retention.
  • Group plants according to their watering needs.
  • Plant an Eco-Lawn, which is a combination of fescue seeds, which require less water than traditional lawns, does well in shady or poor quality soils.
  • Replace portion of lawn with xeric plants or vegetables.
  • Use a broom rather than a hose to clean sidewalks, home exterior, etc.
  • Use porous materials for walkways and patios, to prevent runoff and keep water in your yard.
  • Apply lawn fertilizer sparingly.
  • Wash your pet outdoors, in an area that needs water.

In the Kitchen

  • Keep an empty milk jug under your kitchen sink, to fill as you wait for the water to get hot. Use that water for plants or add to the washing machine.
  • Install an instant hot water heater near your sink.
  • Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.
  • Install low-flow faucet aerator.
  • Fill a bowl or pot with sudsy water, and just dip the rag or sponge rather than the entire dish.
  • Keep a jug of water in the fridge, rather than running the tap waiting for the water to get cold.
  • Compost your food waste rather than using the garbage disposal.
  • Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables. Use a pan of clean water (which you can then pour it on your house plants,) or use a stoppered sink.

In the Bathroom

Toilets are typically the biggest water user inside your home; approximately 30% of your water consumption is used with flushing.

  • For older toilets, buy or make your own water dam to displace water in the tank. (Place a tightly-capped half-gallon milk jug half-filled with sand or gravel in the tank, away from moving parts, for example.) Or, install a new, low-flow or dual flush toilet.
  • “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”
  • Install new technology shower heads that actually provide a powerful shower while still being low-flow.
  • Install faucet aerators; 1.5 gal/min is adequate for bathroom needs
  • Take a shower rather than a soak in the tub, as it uses about half the water.
  • When washing your face at the sink, wet your face, then scrub, then turn water back on to rinse.
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Limit your shower to five minutes, or challenge yourself to turn water off during your scrub in the shower. Shortening your shower by one to two minutes can save you up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Watch for the introduction of a closed loop recirculating system, which will capture and recycle shower water through a filtration system.

In the Home

  • Check for a water leak by seeing if the water meter moves when all faucets are off.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. (One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.)
  • Check for a slow leak in the toilet by putting a couple drops of food coloring in the tank and seeing if it shows up in the bowl.
  • Choose Energy Star appliances.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Avoid using the “Permanent Press” cycle, which uses much more water.
  • Insulate your water pipes so that you get hot water faster.
  • Use a waterless car washing system, such as Eco Cloth or E-cloth.
  • Use a nozzle on your hose for more efficient use of water when rinsing your car.
  • Wash your car on your lawn, or other permeable surface.
  • Better yet, use a commercial carwash, where the water goes to the sewer treatment plant, rather than the storm drain.
  • Set water softeners for a minimum number of refills.
  • When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient rich water to non-edible plants.
  • Reward your kids for the water conservation measures they follow.
  • When you give your pet fresh water, use the old to water plants.

Additional Resources

Excellent EPA website on water conservation. It’s interactive and has a water use calculator and a game in addition to other information.

Washington State Department of Ecology website with water conservation information and ideas.

25 ways to conserve water in your home and yard.

This is the site of the Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership, which is partnering with Walla Walla 2020 on this water conservation campaign.

Weekly water and climate update from the Soil Conservation Service of the US Department of Agriculture.