Summertime water-saving plan

by Andy Bryenton

Summer long-range forecasts are promising lots of sunshine. As we all know, that means rising temperatures and potential rising water use in many households with extra showers, and a dry garden to water.

While using water efficiently is important throughout the year, sometimes the timing can make a big difference for community water supplies. In most areas, the amount of water homeowners use to keep their lawns green or gardens lush spikes in the summer — two to four times as much than they use the rest of the year.

Experts estimate that 50 per cent of the water we use outdoors goes to waste from evaporation, wind or run-off due to overwatering. It’s been established that automatic sprinkler systems can use about 50 per cent more water outdoors than those without them.

Know how much water your landscape needs before you set your sprinkler.

Generally, it’s best to water lawns and gardens in the early morning and evening, after the sun goes down. Significant amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.

It’s time to troubleshoot now. Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying erratically.

Raise your lawnmower blade. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation and fewer weeds.

That’s for the towns, but good irrigation benefits farmers, as pastures grow better and provide stock with more feed, which is easier to manage. Fewer breakdowns occur, and systems are simpler to operate.

Dairy New Zealand guidelines ensure good water flows in the right place at the right time.

Apply the right amount of water at the right time to get maximum growth from your pasture. If there is too much water, it drains away below the pasture and leaches out expensive nutrients. Maintain and manage the irrigation system to minimise wastage and leaks.

If you depend on irrigation, decide on priorities, for example, crops versus pastures or good pastures versus poor pastures and develop a plan to best minimise the impacts of water restrictions.

Anyone responsible for the overall irrigation system must understand and work within the conditions or rules set by the irrigation scheme or regional council, which govern the supply of water.

As new technology improves, the demand for water resources nationally and regionally also continues to grow, making water-efficient practices more relevant than ever.