In the dog days of Texas spring and summer, thoughts turn to water - truly a precious resource. Conservation not only helps ensure that our water supply is adequate; it also protects the quality of our water. Here's what you can do to conserve at home.
- Check your toilet for leaks. A leak in your toilet may waste more than 100 gallons of water each day. To check for leaks, put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. Leave it alone for several minutes. If the food coloring color appears in the toilet bowl you have a leaky gasket. Fix it as soon as possible.
- Take shorter showers. Long showers waste five to ten gallons every minute.
- Install water-saving devices for your shower head and toilet.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator. That way you don't have to run the tap water to cool it off for drinking.
- Use your automatic dishwasher only for full loads. Your dishwasher uses approximately 25 gallons of water for each load, so make each gallon count. If you wash dishes by hand, don't leave the water running for rinsing. If you have two sinks, fill one with soapy water and the other with rinse water.
- Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Many leaks can be repaired with inexpensive washers.
- Mulch around trees, shrubs, and plants. This encourages healthy roots while maintaining root moisture.
- Water during the cool parts of the day. Early morning deep-soakings are better than watering at dusk since it helps prevent fungus growth.
- Position your sprinklers so the water sprays the grass and not the street or driveway.
- Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks, and steps. Using a hose to clean those areas can waste hundreds of gallons of water.
- Maintain a lawn height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches. This helps protect the roots from loss of moisture through evaporation.
- Water thoroughly a couple of times a week versus a light sprinkling every day. Aerate clay soils at least once a year to help the soil retain moisture.
- Plan your garden plantings around similar watering needs. Plant drought-tolerant, low water-demanding grasses, shrubs, and plants.
- Mower maintenance is an often overlooked factor in water conservation but it can have a large impact on the health and efficiency of turf plants. Take the time to keep your mower blade sharp. A dull blade rips the top off of the grass plant, causing damage to the plant and forcing the grass blade to expend more water and energy to repair the damage. Also, a dull blade will produce brown tips after the cutting, which looks bad. A sharp blade avoids these problems. Keep the underside of the mower deck clean to help the blade create the needed "lift". This helps produce a more uniform cut and aids in energy efficiency. Cut no more than one-third of the blade on any one cutting. If your lawn has gotten out of control, set the deck up high for the first mowing and wait a few days between mowings to lower the deck to the desired cutting height. A slightly longer grass blade (2.5 inches or more) reduces thatch buildup, increases disease resistance, and conserves water.
- Xeriscape - In urban areas of Texas about 25% of the water supply is used for landscape and garden watering. Much of this water is used to maintain traditionally high water-demanding landscapes, or it is simply applied inefficiently. In an attempt to reduce excessive water use, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service is educating Texans in Xeriscape landscaping, quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment. This concept is a first-of-a-kind, comprehensive approach to landscaping for water conservation. Traditional landscapes may incorporate one or two principles of water conservation, but they do not utilize the entire concept to reduce landscape water use effectively. Learn more about Xeriscape.