Tip of the Month
Upgrade your Landscape and Irrigation System
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The spring season is a good time to fine tune your sprinkler system and consider upgrades to improve efficiency. Maintenance performed now can mean significant water savings and help keep your landscape healthy. Begin by running your sprinklers to check how well they are operating. Look for uneven coverage, broken, clogged, or leaning sprinkler heads, misting (usually due to excessive water pressure), and weak spray patterns which can be due to leaking underground pipes. Areas with shrubs and narrow or odd-shaped areas are often good candidates for converting sprinklers to in-line drip irrigation. And, if you are tired of mowing a thirsty lawn that never gets used, EBMUD can help you convert it to an attractive and sustainable landscape. See EBMUD’s Lawn Conversion and Irrigation Upgrade Rebates before you begin your project.
Stop a running toilet.
A running toilet can waste two gallons of water per minute. A silent leak can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water per month. To find silent leaks, put food coloring in the tank. Do not flush. Check the toilet bowl ten minutes later. If you see color in the bowl, the tank has a silent leak.
Toilet leaks are typically caused by a worn out flapper valve, which is the stopper in the bottom of the tank that lifts up when you push the flush handle. The solution: replace your flapper. First, shut off the water at the toilet (not at the house line). Then remove the worn flapper and replace it. Your local hardware store can help you choose the proper replacement.
Check for leaks.
A faucet with a slow steady drip wastes 350 gallons per month. If the leak is a small stream, 2,000 to 2,700 gallons of water go to waste every month. To fix these leaks, simply replace the worn washers in the faucets.
To look for hidden leaks, begin by turning off all running water in the house. Check the reading on your water meter. Don't use any water for 30 minutes, then read the meter again. If it shows any water use, you have a leak that needs repair.
Easy ways to use less:
Place a gallon jug under the sink or tub faucet while you wait for the water to heat. Use the captured water for other purposes, like flushing or watering plants. Insulating hot water pipes minimizes both water and energy waste because it reduces the amount of time needed for hot water to arrive at your tap.
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Use a cup to rinse your mouth. Run the tap only to rinse the toothbrush.
When showering or washing your hands, wet your body. Turn off the water, soap up, then turn on the water to rinse.
When washing dishes by hand, fill the kitchen sink or a basin rather than letting the water run. Even better, use an automatic dishwasher. Newer models are more efficient than hand washing and do not require pre-rinsing dishes by hand. Simply scrape off food waste. Wash only full loads.
Wash fruits and vegetables in a sink or bowl filled with water rather than letting the water run.
Keep a container of drinking water in the refrigerator rather than running tap water for a cool drink.
Use the garbage disposal only when necessary. Compost your food waste. You can dispose of it in your green waste bin or use it for your garden. For more information on home and municipal composting, check out www.Stopwaste.org.
Average Household Water Use and Savings
|Fixture/Appliance||Range of savings (gallons/day)||How to save||EBMUD can help|
Install water displacement bag in the tank
Install quick-closing flapper valve
Replace older high-flow toilets with high-efficiency models
|High-efficiency toilet rebates ($100)|
Install low-flow showerhead
Take shorter showers
Install shower control valve (on/off button) and take "military showers"
Free showerheads with 2.0 gallon per minute flow rate
Use load size settings
Reduce the number of loads by washing full loads only
Replace standard washer with high-efficiency model
|Up to $100 rebate for high-efficiency washers|
|Bath Tub||1-2||Minimize fill level|
Install low-flow faucet aerators
Bath: do not let faucet run while saving and brushing teeth
Kitchen: Do not pre-rinse dishes when using dishwasher; scrape food waste into recycling container instead.
|Dishwasher||1-4||Wash only full loads||Free plate food scrapers (email email@example.com)|
|Leaks||3 to hundreds of gallons||
Use dye tablets or food coloring to check toilets for leaks
Replace flapper valves and/or fix shut-off valve
Fix leaky faucets
Read meter when not using water to check for leaks
|Free dye tablets to check for leaks|
Lose your lawn by sheet mulching.
Landscaping with plants adapted to our summer-dry climate is an attractive alternative to the traditional lawn. Converting a lawn to a sustainable landscape involves removing the existing lawn. Sheet mulching decomposes a lawn on site rather than digging up the turf and hauling away valuable organic material. Natural decomposition improves soil quality, preparing the way for new plantings. Summer is a great time to undertake sheet mulching since the soil will be ready for the fall planting season. See how to Remove Your Lawn with Sheet Mulch and learn about EBMUD's Lawn Conversion and Irrigation Upgrade Rebates before you begin your project.
Water less frequently but more deeply.
Think of your soil as a reservoir. Watering to the root depth of this reservoir creates a healthy, water-efficient garden. Here are some general guidelines:
Applying ½ inch of water to lawns with clay soil will moisten the soil to the root depth of 6 inches.
Shrubs need to be watered more deeply and less frequently.
You can determine how long it takes to apply ½ inch of water by setting out several catch cans, running your sprinklers, and measuring the time it takes to fill them to ½ inch.
Lawns in sandy soils need less than ½ inch each watering day but need more frequent applications.
You can also check watering depth by watering for five minutes, then probing the soil with spade to see how deeply you have moistened the soil. If five minutes of irrigation moistens your clay soil two inches, you would need to water for fifteen minutes to moisten the soil to a depth of six inches. This test only works during the dry season.
Adjust your irrigation controller according to the seasons.
Your garden need less water in April than in July. Add days to your watering schedule for the summer season, then reduce the number of days as the fall rains begin. Lawns are the thirstiest landscapes. Perennials and shrubs require less frequent watering.
A better approach is to exchange your irrigation controller for a self-adjusting model. Weather-based controllers take the guesswork out of irrigation scheduling, providing plants the water they need based on current weather. EBMUD customers may be eligible for rebates for up to $300 on a weather-based irrigation controller. For more information, go to Lawn Conversion and Irrigation Upgrades.
Shorten irrigation run times and check for leaks.
Set your irrigation controller to shorter run times. More water reaches the plant root zones per irrigation day with three 5-minute applications (with an hour in between) rather than a single 15-minute application. This is critical when you are watering on a slope or in clay soil, which absorbs water slowly.
Routinely check your irrigation system for leaks. It takes only moments to run through all of your stations to look for broken or misadjusted heads.
Drip irrigation systems apply water more accurately and more slowly. A drip system delivers water directly to plant roots at a rate of gallons per hour rather than gallons per minute typical of an overhead spray system. This slower application is beneficial to plants and prevents overspray and runoff onto sidewalks and into gutters. Sub-surface drip irrigation systems are available for lawns. EBMUD offers rebates to customers who install drip irrigation systems.
Select plants adapted to our Mediterranean climate.
Mediterranean or California native plants thrive on less water. They are a good choice, whether adding plants to your garden or replacing existing plants. You can create a colorful, interesting, and lush garden that is well-suited to the climates and soils in our region. For some great examples, see EBMUD's Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region.
Group plants with similar water needs together. Use separate irrigation stations to water according to high, medium, or low water needs.
Use mulch, the “secret weapon” of the WaterSmart garden.
EBMUD recommends at least three inches of mulch to maintain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, protect the irrigation system from the sun, and give the garden a finished look. Organic mulch (wood bark or compost) will also amend the soil as it decomposes. Avoid applying mulch right up against the main stem or trunk of a plant. For more information on mulch and other water-wise gardening tips, check out www.BayFriendly.org.