Turn back the clocks and turn down the sprinkler systems

Short Title
Turn back the clocks and turn down the sprinkler systems
County Water Authority urges fall reduction in landscape watering
October 21, 2002

Shorter daylight hours mean lawns and gardens throughout the San Diego region need less water. As San Diegans prepare to set their clocks back this weekend, the San Diego County Water Authority and local water districts are asking customers to practice “Shorter Days, Shorter Watering Times.”

Homeowners and gardeners are encouraged to conserve water and save money on their water bills by adjusting residential and commercial irrigation systems.

“Plants, lawns and other vegetation don’t need as much water now that the hours of daylight are getting shorter,” said Bill Jacoby, water resources manager for the Authority.

“Many people tend to maintain their summer watering schedules late into the fall, rather than cutting back as daylight hours grow shorter and the sun’s intensity decreases,” he said.

Studies have shown that about 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 because too much water prevents air from reaching the roots. Roots require the proper mix of water and air to thrive. When air is allowed to reach the roots, there is less chance of plant disease.

Homeowners should gradually cut back on their watering time by approximately 10 percent every three weeks until winter rains arrive, while continually monitoring the soil for 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. 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.

Another way to conserve is by watering in the early morning. During the cooler morning hours, less evaporation takes place, and there is less wind to scatter the droplets onto sidewalks and driveways where water is wasted.

Watering requirements can be determined by going to the City of San Diego’s conservation website at www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation/consprogram.shtml and clicking on the “landscape watering calculator”. By answering a few brief questions (ZIP code, type of landscape, type of watering method, etc.), the calculator provides a monthly watering schedule specific to the different areas of your yard for anywhere in San Diego County.

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.

Homeowners should also replace the batteries in their automatic irrigation clock.

“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. “When clock batteries are depleted, systems may revert to summer watering cycles that will result in over watering.”

For more information on water conservation, visit the San Diego County Water Authority website at www.sdcwa.org or your contact 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 Northern California and the Colorado River. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to almost three million county 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 going to the City of San Diego’s website at www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation/consprogram and clicking on the “landscape watering calculator”.
  • 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 or your contact local water agency.

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