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Water preservation on tap

Cliff Thompson

Drought this summer is largely a foregone conclusion. How best to deal with it, is not.

This year is the third year of a drought, and conditions are close to matching those of 2002, which is being labeled the worst drought in more than 300 years. That summer left lawns and gardens brown and withered.

If you’re a homeowner, what, besides praying for rain, can you do about it?

Some of the answers may lie in modifying your expectations on what sort of vegetation will work here, and some in learning more about what you’ve got.

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which serves 22,000 customers in the eastern half of Eagle County, has a three-step water conservation plan to deal with drought this year.

The first step ” no-watering Mondays and odd-even day watering days according to street addresses ” has been in effect for most of spring. The second step, which reduces watering days ” went into effect June 1. The third step, which prohibits lawn irrigation, will be triggered when the flow of the Eagle River ” which provides residential water ” runs below 40 cubic-feet per second three days in a row at Avon.

In 2002, stream flows went as low as 25 cubic-feet per second before timely rains boosted water levels and reduced irrigation demand.

Watering your lawn is the greatest expenditure of water for most homes. It accounts for aproximately 70 percent of the water produced by water treatment plants in the county.

It takes 1.5 inches of water per week on average to keep a lawn healthy.

For a hypothetical lawn measuring 100 feet by 100 feet (10,000 square feet, or just under a quarter of an acre) it would take 53,607 gallons of water per month. Most homeowners overwater by 25 or 50 percent, according to water conservation data distributed by the district.

If you’re not all that excited about mowing and maintaining a green, water-loving lawn, you can xeriscape, or “dry garden.” This practice consists of choosing plants that survive and thrive in dry conditions; using organic mulches that minimize evaporation and minimizing areas like turf, which need extra water.

The following are a collection of tips designed to reduce your water consumption both inside and outside of your home:

Check your toilet for leaks. You could be wasting more than 100 gallons a day.

Stop using your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. Those extra flushes add up.

Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank. This will reduce the amount of water you flush by displacing water. Weight the bottle with stones or sand, so it does not float.

Take shorter showers. Showers use 5 to 10 gallons per minute.

Install water-saving showerheads.

Take baths. They use less water than all but the shortest shower.

Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving.

Check your faucets and pipes for leaks. Even a small drip can waste up to 50 gallons per day or 350 per week.

n Run your dishwasher for full loads only. It takes about 25 gallons to run a dishwasher. If you wash by hand, don’t let water run while scrubbing dishes.

n Wash vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under running water.

n Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator to save running water until it is cool enough to drink.

n Water your lawn at night or during the cool part of the day to minimize evaporation.

Use a broom to clean sidewalks and driveways.

Plant drought-resistant trees and vegetation.

For more information on how to save water or about the watering schedule, please call the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District at 476-7480 or check its Web site http://wee.erwsd.org/conserve.htm.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.


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