A new name has been coined for the prolonged drought condition in the Colorado River Basin: Mega drought. Water conservation in the home and business can be part of the solution.
Here are some basic water conservation practices worthy of remembering as we navigate through prolific drought.
General rules of thumb to improve efficiency, reduce waste in the home include:
Leak detection and repair: Even small leaks can add up to significant water loss. Look for and repair leaks frequently.
Replace or retrofit appliances and fixtures: Install high efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances. A large percentage of water is flushed down the toilet. Retrofit to code, 1.6 gallon toilets, or install ultra-low flow or dual flush units. Only run clothes and dish washers when full. Install on-demand hot water heaters or hot water circulating pumps.
Employ water-efficient landscaping practices: Only water between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. Use native grasses and shrubs or drought-tolerant plant species. Mulch plants, trees and shrubs. Plan landscaping based on sun, shade, and moisture. Consider xeriscape practices. Use drip irrigation instead of spray. Install rain shut off or moisture sensors on irrigation systems. Refrain from tree-planting and the seeding or sodding of new lawns from June 15 through Aug. 31. Avoid developing water-intensive landscapes. Sweep impervious surfaces such as driveways, parking areas, walkways instead of power washing or hosing down.
Pools and spas: Cover pools and spas with insulated covers when not in use to reduce evaporation. Detect and repair leaks. Minimize re-filling. Refrain from installing outdoor water features such as fountains. Track usage. Learn to interpret the water bill and compare to historic usage to improve water use management.
Water saving and associated cost saving ideas for businesses:
• Install water efficient equipment.
• Select water saving fixtures such as waterless urinals, low-flow and automatic shut off faucets in sinks.
• Recycle water. Check your local codes before implementing water re-use programs. Rainwater collection for irrigation is becoming common in certain locales. Re-use water from cooling towers, heating units, ventilation equipment, and air conditioners. Grey water can be re-used for toilet flushing.
• Identify and repair leaks. Leaking faucets, toilets, irrigation systems and other water conveyance infrastructure can waste many gallons of water a day. A schedule of checking for and repairing leaks will ensure that leaks don’t go unnoticed for long. Encourage staff to report any leaks or drips and repair them immediately.
• Make industrial process improvements with water savings in mind.
• Investigate various water conservation techniques tailored to your specific industry.
• Educate employees about water conservation.
• When cleaning with water is necessary, use minimal amounts.
• Minimize the water used in cooling equipment such as air compressors, in accordance with the manufacturer recommendations.
• Keep hot water heaters and pipes insulated.
• Avoid excessive boiler and air conditioner blow down.
• Consider dry carpet cleaning methods over wet or steam carpet cleaning.
• Instruct clean-up crews and contractors to be efficient when using water.
• Shut off air conditioning when and where it is not needed to reduce the load on equipment.
• Monitor the water bill monthly.
Tips for turf lawns:
• Only water before 9am or after 7pm every third day at 1-inch to 1 1/2 inches per week. If you have a controller, set it to avoid over-watering.
• Most area soils have a lot of clay and need slow water delivery for optimum infiltration; a maximum of 1/2-inch per hour. Select rotary nozzles that use stream spray with multi trajectory, slow delivery.
• Using a smart controller, ET based controller, wireless rain sensors, and/or adjusting timers properly saves water and results in healthier turf and plants.
• Cut your lawn no shorter than 3 inches to reduce soil moisture loss and to promote deeper roots.
• Avoid planting trees and shrubs or sodding new lawns during the drier, hotter months.
• Check your sprinkler heads. Are they broken? Clogged? Plugged? Overgrown with vegetation? Are there objects interfering with proper application? Make sure the spray heads turn properly. Adjust heads so that water does not reach streets and driveways.
• Check for uniform water distribution and infiltration. After a cycle, walk the property to determine if water evenly applied. Look for excessively wet spots or dry spots.
• Avoid watering if the soil is still wet.
• Check for obvious leaks and take immediate action to fix them.
• Does your system have optimum pressure? Too much pressure causes misting/atomizing, too little can cause dribbling.
• Change irrigated turf to native or drought tolerant plants and grasses and incorporate other xeriscape practices such as soil conditioning and mulching.
Other outdoor water saving tips:
• Use porous materials for patios and walkways to reduce runoff.
• Use a car wash that recycles water or wash your car on the lawn so you can simultaneously water your grass. Use a bucket instead of a hose.
• Being “water aware” can go a long way to achieving dramatic savings, both water and costs.
Lyn Halliday is an environmental scientist and consults locally on environmental issues. She was instrumental in the development of the first Water Conservation Plan for the city of Steamboat Springs and, as founder of the Steamboat Sustainable Business Program in 2006, has coached many local businesses to help them reduce their environmental footprint.