Turn back the clocks and turn down the sprinkler systems


Short Title
Turn back the clocks and turn down the sprinkler systems

Water Authority urges reduction in fall landscape watering
October 18, 2004

Shorter daylight hours and cooler weather mean lawns and gardens throughout the San Diego region need less water. As San Diegans prepare to set their clocks back Oct. 31, the San Diego County Water Authority and local water districts request that customers practice “Shorter Days, Shorter Watering Times.” Homeowners, gardeners and landscape contractors are encouraged to conserve water and save money on water bills by adjusting residential and commercial irrigation systems.

“Homeowners should be cutting back on their watering as daylight hours grow shorter and the sun’s intensity decreases,” said Bill Jacoby, water resources manager for the Water Authority. “Not only will this produce significant water savings for the region, but it will also help reduce individual water bills.”

Studies have shown that almost 50 percent of San Diego County’s residential water is used for landscaping. Most over-watering occurs during the fall season. Over-watering can be as damaging to vegetation as under-watering.

Homeowners should begin now to gradually cut back watering times by approximately 10 percent every three weeks until winter rains arrive. As they reduce water times, they should continually monitor soil moisture to prevent stress. Stress is recognized as wilting and/or a lack of luster in leaves or blades of grass.

“Check for moisture by taking a soil sample and rolling or squeezing it into a ball in your hand. If it won’t form into a ball, it’s probably too dry,” said Jacoby. “If it forms a ball, rub it with your thumb. If it doesn’t crumble, it contains enough moisture to supply water to plants.

Sandy soils are the exception as they will always crumble, even when wet.”

By watering in the early morning or later in the evening, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m, homeowners can save water. During the cooler hours, less evaporation takes place and there is less wind to waste water by scattering the droplets onto sidewalks and driveways.

The Landscape Calculator at www.sdcwa.org will assist homeowners in determining watering requirements for their landscape. By answering a few brief questions (ZIP code, type of landscape, type of watering method), the calculator provides a monthly watering schedule specific to the different areas of your yard for anywhere in San Diego County.

Homeowners can call 800-986-4538 for a free landscape survey, or (619) 570-1999 if their home is located in the city of San Diego. Homeowners also can call the 800-number to determine if they qualify for a weather-based irrigation controller voucher. Weather-based controllers automatically adjust the amount and frequency of watering based on weather conditions, reducing water costs by as much as 20 percent.

Jacoby suggests that homeowners who have questions about the effects of reducing irrigation on particular plants should consult an expert at local nurseries or garden centers.

It is also recommended that the batteries in irrigation controllers be replaced at this time. When clock batteries are depleted, systems revert to summer watering cycles resulting in over watering.

“Just as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors has become routine with the time change, homeowners should install fresh batteries in their irrigation clocks,” said Jacoby. “If the batteries fail, irrigation systems will over-water, often without the homeowner even being aware of it.”
For more information on water conservation, visit the San Diego County Water Authority website at www.sdcwa.org or contact your local water agency.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to support the region’s $130 billion economy and the quality of life of 3 million residents.

Fast Facts For Fall Watering

  • Approximately 50 percent of residential water, more than 58 billion gallons every year are used for landscaping in San Diego County.
  • Plants, lawns and gardens require less water when daylight hours become shorter. In fact, over watering actually damages landscapes by preventing air from reaching the roots.
  • People tend to maintain their summer watering schedules too far into the fall season, rather than cutting back as daylight hours become shorter and the sun’s intensity decreases.
  • Beginning in October, homeowners should progressively cut back on their watering time by 10 percent every three weeks until winter rains arrive, while maintaining proper soil moisture.
  • Watering requirements can be determined by utilizing the Landscape Calculator at www.sdcwa.org/manage/conservation.phtml.
  • Check for moisture by taking a soil sample and rolling or squeezing it into a ball in your hand. If it won’t form into a ball, it’s probably too dry. If it forms a ball, rub it with your thumb. If it doesn’t crumble, it contains enough moisture to supply water to vegetation. Sandy soils are the exception, as they will always crumble when wet.
  • Watch lawns and plants for signs of stress. Stress is described as wilting or a lack of luster in leaves or blades of grass.
  • The Water Authority and your local water districts are asking their customers to practice “Shorter Days, Shorter Watering Times.” If you have questions about the effects of reduced irrigation on your specific plants or landscape, contact a professional at your local nursery.
  • For more information on water conservation, visit the San Diego County Water Authority website at www.sdcwa.org/manage/conservation.phtml or your contact local water agency.

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