Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Water Conservation

Although we've had good rain so far in 2012 for the San Angelo area, the lakes we depend on for water have not been replenished. In fact, our main water source, O.H. Ivie Reservoir about 60 miles to our east, is only at 16% capacity with about 90,000 acre feet. To make matters worse, we share that water source with other area communities, including Midland, Texas.

Water has become one of our most precious commodities. I hate to see it wasted.

How many times have you driven through a neighborhood during a rain storm only to see the sprinkler system at a house watering the lawn? The problem, of course, is that many -- probably most -- people set their sprinkler systems and then forget about them; this is especially true, I think, with businesses. Another example of this is when an area has enjoyed good rains recently, as Angelo did a few weeks back; then, a couple of days after the rains stop, you see sprinklers watering lawns. If you've enjoyed an inch or more of rain, your lawn probably does not need watering for a week or more, depending on the temperature, wind, and other conditions. Again, this is a result of sprinklers being set and forgotten about.

Another form of wasting water on lawns is the time of day when we water our lawns. All watering really should be done early in the morning, probably before 9:00 AM. When lawns are watered during the heat of the day, some of that water is lost to evaporation. Many people prefer watering in the evening; the problem with watering at the end of the day is that the lawn stays wet overnight, and this could encourage disease, especially if your nights get cool.

Watering when it is windy also wastes water. I always cringe when I see water from sprinklers being carried away by the wind. In windy places like West Texas, more water can be carried away than eventually reaches the ground.

I keep my sprinkler system set, but turned off. When my lawn needs watering, I turn the system on the night before. I also watch weather forecasts; if rain is predicted, I keep my sprinklers turned off. After all, I'd much rather have good rain water with its high nitrogen content on my grass rather than city water. At this time, San Angelo and the surrounding area have a chance of rain for the next 2 or 3 days. My sprinkler system is off and will remain off until all chance of rain has passed. Then, if my lawn needs watering -- and it probably will -- I'll turn them on one night so that they run early the next morning.

Newer sprinkler systems have a rain sensor that can detect when it is raining and shut your sprinkler system off. My sprinkler system has this. Still, what if you had a good rain at 6:00 AM and your sprinkler system is set to go off 2 hours later? Again, you're watering a lawn that doesn't need watering.

Another thing I do when watering is try to prevent runoff. Standard practice is to turn on a sprinkler system and let it run for a set time. The problem with this is that after a while, water begins to puddle and runoff into the street. The ground needs more water, but since the water is coming so fast at one time, the ground cannot absorb all of it and this runoff occurs. Fortunately, on my sprinkler system, I'm able to set multiple run times. So, I have my sprinkler system water for a very short time -- about 8 minutes or so -- at 5:00 AM and then for the same amount of time again at 6:00 AM. Overall, I may use the same amount of water as someone else, but more of my water is being absorbed by the ground and is being used more fully.

There are lots of things we can do to conserve water and use it more wisely.

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