Saving Water Outside The Home
Every resident of Citrus County can play a role in helping to conserve the environment and our precious water resources. Outdoor irrigation can account for up to 50% of the average homeowner's water use. By utilizing water wise principles and practices, a well-designed and adequately maintained landscape and sprinkler system can save water, time, energy, and money.
Water Saving Practices for the Landscape
- Stop, Look, and Listen! Make it a habit to walk your yard weekly to check faucets, hoses, connections, and your sprinkler system for problems. Signs to look for include puddles, displaced mulch, holes, or dirt mounds.
- Control weeds. Weeds compete with lawn grasses and landscape plants for water, nutrients, and space.
- Mulch your landscape. Applying a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch (leaves, bark, etc.) around trees, shrubs, plant beds, and exposed soil areas will reduce water loss by reducing evaporation, suppressing competitive weeds, and preventing runoff. Keep the mulch pulled back from plant stems and crowns to avoid rot problems.
- Mow lawns high to promote deeper, more extensive rooting. Never remove more than one-third the length of the leaf blade to avoid stressing the grass. Also, keep the mower blade sharp.
- Apply fertilizer sparingly to minimize flushes of growth that require more water and maintenance. Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients slowly, avoiding problems with washing away of nutrients and extending nutrient availability significantly longer than a rapidly available, water soluble fertilizer.
- Replace water-dependent turfgrass and plants with drought-tolerant ground covers and shrubs. Many properly placed Florida native and non-native plants, once established, require much less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and general maintenance.
Water Saving Practices for Sprinkler Systems
- Sensible Sprinkling! An efficient way to irrigate is to water only as needed. A water-efficient irrigation system can save water, reduce the potential for fungal disease, and decrease maintenance requirements. Water your lawn and landscape deeply at long intervals rather than frequent, shallow watering to encourage deep, extensive root growth that can improve drought resistance.
- Make seasonal adjustments to your sprinkler system’s time clock. With no rainfall, twice a week in the dry months and once every 10 to 14 days in the winter is adequate. If rainfall occurs, irrigation should be suspended until visible drought symptoms appear, in accordance with local watering restrictions. Drought symptoms on lawns include folded or rolled, pale leaves, and footprints or tire tracks remaining in the grass long after being made. The leaves of dry plants wilt and/or turn a pale color.
- Perform a sprinkler system check-up and tune-up to yield substantial water savings and better plant growth. Start with a visual inspection of each irrigation zone for problems, such as broken, clogged, obstructed, or misdirected sprinklers. Once it is verified that the system is functioning properly and all problems have been fixed, conduct a simple catch-can test for each zone to check the uniformity (evenness) of water application and make sprinkler adjustments or replacement to achieve uniformity. Make clock adjustments so that ¾ inch of water is applied each time the system runs.
- Install a rain sensor (also known as a rain shut-off device) on your automatic irrigation system’s time clock. After a certain amount of rain is collected, this device breaks the circuit to the electric solenoid valves of the sprinkler system, preventing them from opening. However, it does not interrupt the timekeeping function of the clock. According to Florida Statute 373.662, any person who purchases and installs an automatic lawn sprinkler system after May 1, 1991 shall install a rain sensor.
- Consider drip irrigation for landscape beds. Also known as micro or low flow irrigation, this water application method puts the water where it is needed - at the root zone - and, when designed and operated properly, eliminates waste. Traditional overhead irrigation can lead to water loss because of a greater rate of evaporation and exposure to wind drift.
Other Outdoor Water Saving Practices
- Use your meter to check for leaks. Simply turn off all faucets and water-using appliances and wait for the ice maker and hot water heater to finish filling. Carefully remove the meter box’s cover. On the meter, the small red triangle on the left side is the leak detector; if this indicator is moving, you may have a leak.
- Stop those leaks. A leak of one drop per second from an outdoor faucet or hose can waste up to 2,400 gallons a year! A professional may have to be consulted to find and repair any leaks.
- Swimming Pool Concerns? Perform a bucket leak test by placing a five gallon plastic bucket on a step (a brick may have to be added to weigh it down) and filling it to the same level as the water in the pool. Mark the water level on both the inside and outside of the bucket and track the two levels for a few days to see if the pool’s water level drops more quickly than the bucket’s water level. If there's a greater drop from the line on the outside of the bucket than the line on the inside, the pool may have a leak. Check all pump and filter connections and piping. A professional pool repair company may need to be consulted if you suspect leaks.
- Consider a swimming pool cover to reduce water loss from evaporation.
- Avoid Non-Essential Uses of Water. Instead of hosing down hard surfaces, such as walks, use a broom or power blower to clean debris from these areas. Use a commercial car wash that recycles water, or park on the grass or other pervious surface when washing your car at home.
- Use Automatic Shutoff Nozzles on Hoses. A garden hose without one can waste up to 600 gallons of water an hour.