WATER CONSERVATION – OUTDOORS
About 70% of total water consumption happens outdoors in the summer time, mostly due to sprinkler use on lawns. Sprinkler or soaker hose use on other landscaping can also contribute to the high summer demand.
WATER-WISE LAWN CARE
1.Raise your lawn mower to 2.5 – 3”, this reduces evaporation from the soil and stress to the grass.
2. Check your soil quality and depth. If less than 8” of loam:
a. Top dress lawn with ¼ inch compost or loam in spring and fall
b. Leave grass clippings behind as mulch
c. Adjust your sprinklers to a cycle and soak method (e.g. 5 – 10 minutes on/off/on/off etc.)
3. Add no more than 1” water per week including rain.
a. Use a can (e.g. tuna) to measure how much your sprinkler delivers per 10 minutes and adjust watering accordingly). Grass cannot absorb more water than that.
b. Consider investing in a smart controller that can be set from your cell phone
c. Switch your older timer for a newer model than can adapt to the new water restrictions
4. Use these key techniques for keeping lawns green and healthy on little or no water
a. Add lime in spring (and/or fall). Rainfall increases soil acidity and grass thrives in a near neutral environment.
b. Aerate your lawn in spring to reduce compaction and improve water penetration
c. De-thatch if thatch layer is thicker than ½”. A thin layer of thatch is beneficial for your lawn
d. Install lawns in spring or fall, rather than in the heat of summer
e. Consider “going gold”: Not watering your lawn over summer. If you raise your lawn mower, amend your soil, lime and aerate, your lawn will stay green longer, even without watering.
5. Installing, scheduling and maintaining irrigation systems
Consult an Irrigation Industry Association of BC (IIABC) certified irrigation professional for up-to-date advice on installing, scheduling and maintaining water-wise irrigation systems. They can help you with:
a. Choosing the best system for lawns vs. beds (sprinkler system or micro/drip irrigation)
b. Selecting a timer that works on watering restrictions and can be programmed via your cell-phone
c. Advice on irrigation scheduling
d. Information on smart controllers that adjust watering to account for rain
e. Proper yearly and monthly maintenance of irrigation systems
f. If doing your own annual service:
i. In the spring:
1. Reset timers, ensure they work
2. Adjust for new bylaw sprinkling restrictions
3. Add a rain sensor or smart controller
4. Set irrigation schedule according to established monthly evaporation for this area to avoid wasting water in spring and fall
5. Check for blocked or misaligned sprinkler heads
6. Check for leaks
7. Test backﬂow prevention valves and check valves
g. Turn system on monthly to check for:
i. Wet/dry patches indicating plugged nozzles
ii. Arc that is watering roads or driveways
h. Patterns of irrigation on your driveway or road indicate one or more of your sprinkler heads are no longer correctly aimed or may be blocked.
i. Don’t forget to turn system off in the fall and blow your lines out.
WATER-WISE FOR OTHER LANDSCAPING
Environment Canada predicts that the effects of human-induced climate change have already been observed in Canada. These effects include:
- Longer growing season
- More heat waves and fewer cold spells
- Thawing permafrost
- Earlier river ice break-up
- Increase in precipitation over large parts of Canada, more snowfall in northwest Arctic
- Earlier spring runoff
- Earlier budding of trees
The following sections provide advice on reducing water consumption, especially if summers continue to get hotter and drier.
Install micro- or drip irrigation systems
If properly installed and scheduled, micro-, or drip irrigation systems will irrigate garden beds, shrubs and trees using much less water than a traditional above ground or automatic sprinkler systems. Consult IIABC certified professionals to ensure the installation is done correctly.
Mulch is key to water conservation
Non-organic mulching materials can be used, but in order to improve the depth and health of soil, organic material is best. Organic mulching includes:
- Chipped hard wood (preferred, as breaks down faster) or soft wood trees using the whole tree (except cedar)
- Grass clippings
- Peat moss (non-renewable resource, explore alternatives)
- Wood chips
- Cardboard, newspaper
Landscape with native or drought tolerant plants
Given the predictions for longer, drier summers, consideration should be given to landscaping with native or drought resistant plants.
Consider using trees, shrubs, flowers that are adapted to the conditions of the region: Warm, dry summers and wet, cool winters.
Other outdoor use
- Wash vehicles, boats, windows, buildings and driveways using a hand-held hose with automatic shut off nozzle
- Sweep driveways instead of rinsing – rinse just to keep dust down
- Use a pressure washers instead of a hose: pressure washers use 50 – 80% less water than a garden hose
- Fill pools or hot tubs to within 15 – 20 cm from the top. Cover when not in use
WATER CONSERVATION – INDOORS
About 30% of water use happens in the home. Some steps to reduce water consumption in the home include:
- Install low flow toilets
- Install low flow shower heads
- Select water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers
- Install aerators on taps
- Wash only full loads
- In summer, fill a jug and keep in fridge rather than running the tap to get cold water for each glass
- If running the tap to get cold water, consider catching that water for indoor or outdoor plant irrigation
5 TIPS to help ensure your property is not a water waster during the fall & winter months.
- Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.
Detaching a hose allows water to drain from the faucet. Otherwise, a single, hard overnight freeze can burst either the faucet or the pipe it is connected to.
- Shut off your irrigation system.
Be sure to isolate your irrigation system and have the lines “blown out” with air. As temperatures change, stagnant water left in irrigation lines contracts and expands leading to cracks and breaks in the pipes. Often these lead to leaks which go undetected for months until the irrigation system is put back online for the summer. Be sure to check for leaks when restarting the irrigation system in the spring.
- Winterize pipes.
Save water by protecting pipes. Get a professional plumber to wrap exposed or vulnerable pipes (or add insulation) so that they stay warmer and are less likely to leak or burst.
- Use a Shower Bucket.
When most people turn on their shower, they let the cold water that comes out of it for the first few seconds run down the drain. Instead of letting all that water go to waste, consider using a bucket to capture it and then using that water for household tasks like cleaning, flushing toilets, or watering house plants. Best of all, you can use this trick all year round.
- Locate the shut-off valve.
In the event of a leaking or burst pipe, immediately shut off the water to your home or building. This will save money on water and property damage repairs. The quicker you can turn off that water, the less goes to waste (and harms your structure and/or valuables).
TIPS for Hiring an Irrigation Designer, Installer or Scheduler
The Irrigation Industry Association of BC (IIABC) lists certified irrigation designers, installers and schedulers on their website – https://www.irrigationbc.com/irrigation/members/search. See sample list overleaf.
To do the search yourself, click on the link above, then in the drop down boxes select:
- All types
- Vancouver Island/Coast
- All Classifications
To hire a contractor or for getting advice on irrigation scheduling, here are some recommendations from the Irrigation Industry Association of BC (IIABC). The last four points are most relevant when considering a new irrigation timer. https://www.irrigationbc.com/page/selecting-a-contractor
These questions should be asked before a contractor submits a proposal on your landscaping in order to protect yourself and your investment:
- Do you have a business license and will you show it to me?
- How many years has this specific company name been in business and can you supply reliable references?
- Does your company carry liability insurance and if so, to what extent?
- What type of cross connection control or backflow prevention is required by our municipality? Does your company have a certified cross-connection (backflow) expert on staff?
- Is your company a member of the Irrigation Industry Association of B.C.? (You can search for Certified Professionals on the IIABC’s website to verify this.)
- If I select your design, are you able to stamp your design with an approved IIABC Certified Irrigation Designer stamp or have an approved designer certify it?
- What types of products will you use and why?
- Is the contractor able to provide irrigation scheduling information using Farmwest and /or the IIABC scheduling calculator?
- Has the contractor provided a schedule to match peak conditions and provided information on how to adjust the schedule?
- Will the irrigation system be able to provide sufficient water to the plants within the local government watering restrictions?