Outdoor irrigation can account for up to 50% of the average homeowner's potable water use. By utilizing water wise principles and practices, a well-designed and adequately maintained landscape and sprinkler system could save water, time, energy, and money.
Landscape Water Saving Practices
* Stop, Look, and Listen! Make it a habit to walk your yard weekly to check faucets, hoses, connections, and your sprinkler system for problems. Signs to look for include puddles, displaced mulch, holes, or dirt mounds.
* Control weeds. Weeds compete with lawn grasses and landscape plants for water, nutrients, and space.
* Mulch your landscape. Maintaining a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch (leaves, bark, etc.) around trees, shrubs, plant beds, and exposed soil areas will reduce water loss by reducing evaporation, suppressing competitive weeds, and preventing runoff. Keep the mulch pulled back from plant stems and crowns to avoid rot problems.
* Mow lawns high to promote deeper, more extensive rooting. Never remove more than one-third the length of the leaf blade to avoid stressing the grass. Also, keep the mower blade sharp.
* Apply fertilizer sparingly to minimize flushes of growth that require more water and maintenance. Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients slowly, avoiding problems with washing away of nutrients and extending nutrient availability significantly longer than a rapidly available, water soluble fertilizer.
* Replace water-dependent turfgrass and plants with drought-tolerant ground covers and shrubs. Many properly placed Florida native and non-native plants, once established, require much less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and general maintenance. For help with plant selection, open and print out the brochure below, and view this Ground Covers Video.
NEW BROCHURE! Drought Tolerant Ground Covers for Your Landscape
Brought to you by the St. Petersburg water conservation office to assist consumers wanting to minimize lawn areas to where it is actually needed. If you wish to reduce the work, chemicals, and expense necessary to maintain an attractive and healthy lawn, you should consider replacement with other low-growing ground covers. Drought Tolerant Ground Covers for Your Landscape contains color photos and growing tips for twelve (12) native and non-native plants, plant installation steps, and other information.
Water Saving Practices for Sprinkler Systems
* Sensible Sprinkling! An efficient way to irrigate is to water only as needed. As a result, you could save water, reduce the potential for fungal disease, and decrease maintenance requirements.
Sensible Sprinkling Program - Available to all Residential, Multi-family and Commercial water customers. This Program offers a FREE CHECK-UP to water customers with working in-ground sprinkler systems using potable, reclaimed, or well water. You will receive a sprinkler system evaluation with site-specific suggestions, installation of a rain sensor if one is not present, water wise tips, and an automatic shut-off hose nozzle. To participate, complete and submit both sides of the Sensible Sprinkling application to SensibleSprinkling@stpete.org. For more information, view the guidelines on the application, email us, or call 892-5611.
* Make seasonal adjustments to your sprinkler system's time clock, in accordance with local watering restrictions. With no rainfall, twice a week watering in the dry months and once every 10 to 14 days in the winter is adequate. If rainfall occurs, watering should be suspended until visible drought symptoms appear.
* Perform a sprinkler system check-up to yield substantial water savings and better plant growth. Start with a visual inspection of each zone for problems, using this checklist.
* Tune up your sprinkler system. Once you verify that the system is functioning properly, conduct a simple catch-can test to check the uniformity (evenness) of water application. Make sprinkler adjustments to achieve uniformity, and clock adjustments so that 1/2 inch of water is applied each time the system runs.
* Install a rain sensor (also known as a rain shut-off device) on your automatic irrigation system's time clock. After a certain amount of rain is collected, this device breaks the circuit to the electric solenoid valves of the sprinkler system, preventing them from opening. However, it does not interrupt the timekeeping function of the clock. View Installing and Checking a Rain Sensor to learn more.
* Consider drip irrigation for landscape beds. Also known as micro or low flow irrigation, this water application method puts the water where it is needed - at the root zone - and, when designed and operated properly, eliminates waste. Traditional overhead irrigation can lead to water loss because of a greater rate of evaporation and exposure to wind drift. To learn more, view or download the Guide to Micro-Irrigation for West Central Florida Landscapes.
Other Outdoor Water Saving Practices
* Use your meter to check for leaks. Simply turn off all faucets and water-using appliances and wait for the ice maker and hot water heater to finish filling. Carefully remove the meter box's cover. On the meter, the small red triangle on the left side is the leak detector; if this indicator is moving, you may have a leak.
* Stop those leaks. A leak of one drop per second from an outdoor faucet or hose can waste up to 2,400 gallons a year! A professional may have to be consulted to find and repair any leaks.
* Swimming Pool Concerns? Perform a bucket leak test by placing a five gallon plastic bucket on a step (a brick may have to be added to weigh it down) and filling it with water to the same level as the water in the pool. Mark the water level on both the inside and outside of the bucket and track the two levels for a few days to see if the pool's water level drops more quickly than the bucket's water level. If there's a greater drop from the line on the outside of the bucket than the line on the inside, the pool may have a leak. Check all pump and filter connections and piping. A professional pool repair company may need to be consulted if you suspect leaks.
* Consider a swimming pool cover to reduce water loss from evaporation.
* Avoid Non-Essential Uses of Water. Instead of hosing down hard surfaces such as walks, use a broom or power blower to clear debris from these areas. Use a commercial car wash that recycles water, or park on the grass or other pervious surface when washing your car at home.
* Use Automatic Shutoff Nozzles on Hoses. A garden hose without one can waste up to 600 gallons of water an hour.
For information on current water conservation programs in St. Petersburg or to obtain literature on ways to save water, email WaterDept@stpete.org or call 892-5688 and leave your name and address.