Ask The Contractor column: April is Water Awareness Month

Low-water landscaping is one way to conserve water.  Also, check the watering system to be sure you are not watering too much.

Daily Courier, file

Low-water landscaping is one way to conserve water. Also, check the watering system to be sure you are not watering too much.

Every day is a good day to be water aware! April is Water Awareness Month and we invite you, your family and your neighbors to join in the celebration of Water Awareness Month.

WAM was first launched in 2008, and this column is “overflowing” with ideas to help you learn more about water conservation and become more aware of our state’s most precious resource.

Water is a serious subject in Arizona. The availability and quality of our water supply is critical to our quality of life and our state’s status as a world-class destination.

Let’s all start to practice a low water-use lifestyle. It’s a way each individual and business in Arizona can help ensure a long-term, sufficient water supply. You can make a difference in our future by making small changes, starting today.

Here are some easy tips and tricks to conserve water:

Indoors

• Check your water bill, as well as your water provider’s website and newsletter for currently available rebates and conservation programs.

• If you hear about a rebate, call right away; they are usually offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

• Find and fix leaks as quickly as possible.

• Reduce your water use with EPA WaterSense-labeled toilets, faucets, urinals, showerheads and irrigation controllers. These have been certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance.

• Check your toilets, faucets and showerheads regularly for leaks.

• Consider WaterSense EnergyStar dishwashers and clothes dryers.

• Install low-flow shower heads.

• And let’s all turn the water off when we brush our teeth.

Outdoors

• If you have a pool, install a pool cover to prevent water evaporation.

• If you have a pool, meter the water that refills the pool; if you notice a sharp increase, you may have a leak.

• Direct pool filter backwash water to plants or use it for other beneficial purposes. Or use cartridge filters that can be cleaned without having to backwash.

• Use the manual option to turn on your irrigation controller and then check for leaks and other water-wasting problems.

• Talk with landscape professionals who are familiar with water-efficient irrigation technology and practices.

• Check all outdoor hoses, connectors, and spigots regularly for leaks.

• Turn off your automatic watering systems when it rains or install a rain sensor to do this automatically.

• Plan, design and install an efficient irrigation system - and adjust your watering schedule at least four times a year.

• Make sure your controller lets you run stations on different schedules; some desert-adapted plants need to be watered only once or twice a month!

Watering Plants

• Water small plants to a depth of 1 foot, larger shrubs to 2 feet, and trees to 3 feet. Use a soil probe or a very long screwdriver to test how deep the water has sunk in.

• Water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep, strong root systems that can tolerate longer periods between watering.

• Collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts, and keep them free of debris.

• Consider a “smart” controller that monitors local weather conditions and automatically adjusts when to irrigate your landscape - no humans required.

• Do not water your plants too much. More plants in Arizona landscapes die from over-watering than under-watering!

Watering Turf

• Water your lawn at night or in the early morning to keep evaporation at a minimum.

• Check with your county cooperative extension office about the best types of lawn grass for your area.

• Adjust sprinkler heads so they don’t spray walls, driveways or sidewalks.

• Adjust your mower so that grass isn’t cut too short; longer grass uses less water.

• Spray your lawns with only as much water as the ground can absorb; areas with hard compacted soils may need to be watered in increments.

• Don’t use a sprinkler meant to water a 15-foot area when an 8-foot sprinkler will do.

• Calculate your family’s water use by checking your water meter or using your water bill to determine how many gallons are being used.

• Set a goal to reduce your family’s indoor and outdoor water use – a good target is to use less than 100 gallons per person per day.

• Lead in practicing a water-wise lifestyle and your friends and family are likely to be influenced to do the same.

• Reduce showering time to save both water and energy. A 10-minute shower uses approximately 50 gallons of hot water. Shoot for a five-minute shower.

• Wash full loads of clothes and use more cold water to save both water and energy. Heating water uses a large amount of energy.

• Water and energy are interconnected: It takes energy to transport and treat water, so by conserving water you are also conserving energy! Water is used to generate electricity, so by conserving energy you are also conserving water!

Until now, water has been fairly abundant and reasonably priced, but as the demand increases, especially in heavily populated areas, cheap water will become a thing of the past.

In the average home up to 40 percent of the water consumed goes to outdoor use, such as watering lawns and plants. (And approximately half of that water is wasted due to evaporation, misapplication or overwatering.)

There is a growing awareness that rainwater harvesting is at least a partial solution for potable, nonpotable, stormwater and energy challenges. Many national, state and local jurisdictions are developing legislation, codes and ordinances that encourage the practice and so they should be.

While harvested rainwater has the potential to be used inside the house for a variety of functions such as toilet flushing or laundry, watering the yard is the most common use of it — and largely free of heavy regulation.

For many applications such as irrigation, fire prevention or additional reserve for exterior cleaning, the reclaimed water may only require very limited treatment. It only makes sense in future designs to capture and reuse this rainwater as opposed to purchasing new water.

Realizing the worth of harvested rain is simple — and so is capturing it. Today’s choices include simple rain barrels, above-ground cisterns, and buried tanks.

If you are considering a rainwater catchment system, first figure out how much water you need to collect.

The general rule of thumb is that for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet (the size of a typical roof), approximately 600 gallons of water can be harvested.

In general, your plants need about an inch of rain per week (or approximately a half gallon of water per square foot of garden). If a landscaped area is 100 square feet, you’ll want to have about 50 gallons available on demand.

For smaller amounts of water, a simple rain barrel will do. But for larger amounts of water — 1,000 gallons and more — a holding vessel is the best option.

The process of rainwater collection is relatively simple: The rainwater runs from the roof, through the gutters and downspouts, and into the cistern. The water passes through a screen or other filter, which takes out large debris.

A variety of pump systems can be used to retrieve the water from the storage tank. By learning the mechanics of rainwater catchment and understanding basic differences between the options available, home owners can reduce their water bills and live a more sustainable life.

But equally important is to be water-wise in all areas of the house and to plan ahead for water conservation methods.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.