8 Tips for At-Home Water Conservation
by SLCgreen intern Linda Derhak
The future of our local water systems is a critical issue in Utah. Indeed, although the state was declared drought free early this May, Utah experienced its driest year on record in 2018 — and this summer may be just as scorching.
Utah typically relies on snow melt runoff stored in mountain reservoirs to survive the hot summers. The past few years, however, Utah’s weather has been unpredictable — from receiving one of the worst drought designations in the nation in October to watching for flooding as the snow pack starts to melt.
Although our rivers are bulging and reservoirs are at capacity, there’s no telling how long the good fortune will last. With this in mind, it’s important to remain conscious of our water usage as summer approaches. Luckily, there are many easy ways to conserve water!
Salt Lake City’s Department of Public Utilities has many resources on their website to help you conserve water. We’ve also put together this handy list:
Saving Water Outside
- Water Yards Before 8 a.m. and After 8 p.m.* — Water evaporates quickly when daytime temperatures peak. Sticking to this rule ensures the water has maximum effect and less goes to waste. If you have sprinklers, sign up for a free water check to make sure your irrigation system is working efficiently.
- Group Plants with Similar Watering Needs — These planting clusters are known as Hydrozones. Turf grass requires more frequent watering, whereas trees and shrubs require deep watering less frequently. When choosing plants for the yard, look for drought-resistant and native varieties. Since turf grass uses the most water, it is suggested to only plant it where it has a practical function. Xeriscaping is another way to cut down water usage but still achieve an attractive yard.
- Don’t Water Your Lawn Every Day — If you have a lawn, water sparingly. If you water every 2- 3 days, the water soaks into the soil forcing the roots to grow downward. Not only will your lawn be healthier, but it will also be less susceptible to drought.
- Raise the Lawn Mower Blade — During the sweltering summer months mow your lawn between 2-3 inches. The longer grass blades shade one another and the roots grow deeper reducing watering needs. As a result, the grass becomes more resistant to drought and heat which is a necessity in July.
- Weed and Mulch More — Start the season right by weeding vigorously. Cover gardening areas and the lawn with a layer of mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture. Mulch can be organic or inorganic; however organic mulches such as pine straw and shredded hardwood are preferred since they retain moisture and add nutrients to the plants. For the lawn, grass clippings make excellent mulch and come free with each mow!
- Mindful Meal Preparation — It’s easy to lose track of the amount of water we use when cleaning produce, cooking, and preparing food. When cleaning off produce, use a large bowl or tub of water rather than using the faucet as a power-washer. Boil food in as little water as possible – just enough to submerge it. The extra water from these activities can go towards your plants or garden. It’s never a bad idea to keep a pitcher in the kitchen to collect excess water for the day. Lastly, don’t use water to thaw frozen foods. Instead leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Fix Leaky Toilets — This issue is surprisingly common, but also an easy fix. Over time, the toilet flapper (e.g. valve seal), wears down and can silently be wasting 100 gallons or more of water a day. To see if your toilet is guilty of this, put a few drops of food coloring or a toilet tablet into your toilet tank. Let it sit for around 15 minutes. If the color shows up in the bowl this means your tank is leaking and the toilet flapper needs to be replaced.
- Use WaterSense Appliances — When possible, replace appliances such as washers, shower heads, and toilets with those labeled with WaterSense. This label means they are 20% more water efficient! This conserves water and can put a dent in the water bill.
Keep Utah From Going Dry
Utah is one of the driest states in the country. Our population continues to grow, and that puts a strain on limited resources. Utah has a goal of improving water efficiency 25% by 2025. The only way to reach this goal is if we all chip in by making small changes in our own lives. You can calculate your water use and find more tips on how to conserve water at Water Utah.
*A previous version of this blog misstated the times for watering. It is best to water before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m, rather than before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m.