Tip of the Month
Upgrade your Landscape and Irrigation System
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The spring season is a good time to tune your sprinkler system and consider upgrades to improve efficiency. Maintenance performed now can save water and help keep your landscape healthy. Begin by watching all of your sprinklers operate. 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. Shrub 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 or a fill valve that doesn't completely shut off when the tank is full. The flapper valve is the stopper in the bottom of the tank that lifts up when you push the flush handle and is the most likely culprit. The solution: replace your flapper. Shut off the water at the toilet, not at the house line. Remove the worn flapper and replace with a comparable replacement flapper valve (you can ask your hardware retailer for assistance in choosing the proper replacement.)
Check for leaks.
A faucet leaking a slow steady drip wastes 350 gallons per month. A faucet leaking a small stream wastes 2,000 to 2,700 gallons of water per month. To stop leaks, replace worn washers.
Look for hidden leaks 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. If it shows water used, then you have a hidden leak that needs repair.
Easy ways to use less:
Put a gallon jug under the sink or tub faucet while you wait for it to get hot. Use this water for other purposes, like flushing or watering plants. Wasted hot water increases both water and energy bills. Insulating hot water pipes also minimizes water waste because you wait less for the hot water to arrive.
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Use a cup for rinsing and run the tap only to rinse the toothbrush.
When showering and washing hands, wet your body. Turn off the water, apply soap, and then turn on the water to rinse.
When washing dishes by hand, fill the kitchen sink or basin to dip dishes rather than leaving the water running. But even better to use an automatic dishwasher; newer models are more efficient than hand washing. Most dishwashers 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 (don't leave the water running).
Keep a container of water in the refrigerator rather than running tap water for a cool drink.
Use the garbage disposal only when necessary. Consider composting food waste. You can use it for your garden or dispose of it in your green waste bin. 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
Install quick-closing flapper valve
Replace older high-flow toilets with high-efficiency models
|Free water displacement bags for 3.5 gallon per flush toilets|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|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 is a great way to decompose a lawn in place instead of digging up and hauling away valuable organic material. With time, natural decomposition will improve soil quality and prepare the soil for new plantings. Summer is a great time to undertake a sheet mulching project so 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. For lawns in clay soil, this typically means applying ½ inch of water 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 does not need as much water in April as it does in July. Add days to your watering schedule for the summer season and then reduce the number of days as fall approaches. Lawns, the thirstiest of plants, require at most three times per week in the heat of summer and once or twice a week in spring and fall. Perennials and shrubs require less frequent watering than lawns.
Better yet: 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 who use more than 250 gallons per day to irrigate in summer may be eligible for a rebate on a weather-based irrigation controller. Rebates are for $100, $250, $350, and $500, depending on past water use history.
Reduce urban runoff with short run times and by checking for leaks.
Set your irrigation controller to shorter run times. Three five-minute applications with an hour in between allows the soil to absorb water better than one 15-minute application, with more water reaching the plant root zones in an irrigation day. This is critical when your are watering on a slope or in clay soil, which absorbs water slowly.
Routinely check your irrigation system for leaks. Often, we do not see our sprinklers when they operate. 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 (right at plant roots) and more slowly (gallons per hour, not the typical gallons per minute of overhead spray). This slow application is ideal for plants and prevents water from overspraying and running off on sidewalks and gutters. A well-designed drip system is durable, and you can even use sub-surface drip irrigation for lawns. EBMUD offers rebates to customers that install drip irrigation systems.
Select plants adapted to our Mediterranean climate, and group into hydro-zones.
Whether adding to your existing garden or replacing existing plants, choose Mediterranean or California natives that thrive on less water. You can create a colorful, interesting, and lush garden that is well-suited to the climates and soils in our region. See many great examples in EBMUD's Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region.
Then group plants, with similar water needs together. Use separate irrigation stations to water according to high, medium, or low water needs. Mixing high- and low-water-use plants that are watered by the same irrigation valve or station makes it difficult to apply the correct amount of water.
Use mulch: the “secret weapon” of water conservation.
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. Never apply 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.
EBMUD Practical Tips for saving water, improving plant health, and lowering your water costs for your commercial sites. How to save water for your Homeowner Associations, Business Parks, and City Roadside and Median Planter Areas. You can contact us to schedule a free irrigation survey and request current program information. For more information on EBMUD programs for commercial irrigators, see Irrigation Programs.
For more information on our rebate programs and eligible water saving products, see Commercial Conservation Rebates and Services, contact email@example.com or call toll-free 1-866-40-EBMUD (1-866-403-2683).