The average Clark County resident uses more water than the average American. Locally, we each consumed about 88 gallons a day in 2015, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Use Science Project — 6 gallons more than the national average the USGS says.
Fortunately, thanks to planning and largely groundwater-sourced water systems, the majority of Clark County is served by plentiful sources. Still, long days of hot weather increase the evaporation of surface water and serve as a reminder that water is a valuable resource.
While county residents now consume less water per person each day than in 2010 (120 gallons), there are ways to reduce our water use further. The benefits of water conservation extend beyond preservation of shared resources and also include lower water bills.
A family of four uses about a third of its 352 gallons daily consumption for outside use such as watering lawns, gardens, and landscapes; washing automobiles; refilling swimming pools, cooling off kids with sprinklers, and hosing down sidewalks or driveways. Keeping landscapes healthy and green is important, not just for aesthetics but also for fire prevention. But walk through any neighborhood, and you’ll see sprinklers wetting hard surfaces — sidewalks, driveways and roadways — not plants.
When we do take care not to waste water on concrete surfaces, many of us water our lawns too often or too long. Grass may not need a daily dousing, and unnecessary watering can add up. For highest efficiency, water your lawn between 4 and 10 a.m. Early morning watering reduces wind and heat evaporation and permits water absorption before sunlight warms the soil. Keep in mind deep, less frequent watering encourages deeper root growth and increases drought tolerance.
A faulty or inefficient irrigation system wastes water and money every day it operates. Installing low arcing sprinklers will ensure that water goes where you want it and, combined with weather-based irrigation controllers, you can improve watering efficiency.
On a moderately sized yard, the controller can reduce a household’s outdoor water use by as much as 15 percent, saving nearly 20 gallons of water a day. Some weather-based irrigation controllers automatically schedule watering for you, providing the right amount of water for your plants in the right places.
Drip irrigation is an even better solution to avoiding overspray and can cut water use by around 60 percent. More water savings comes from decreasing evaporation. Not being thirsty, plants grow better and by keeping water at the roots, plants are less disease prone.
Regular maintenance of your irrigation system can keep water distributed evenly on the lawn and stop it spraying on paved areas. Systems should also have a backflow device that’s tested annually to ensure that no harmful toxins go backward into the water system. More on backflow testing can be found at ClarkPublicUtilities.com or from your water provider. Look for an irrigation professional certified in system maintenance and auditing to make sure your system works.
Thoughtful landscaping helps conserve water, too. Planting native plants suitable for our climate decreases water use and maintenance costs, somewhere between 20 and 50 percent say landscaping experts. Native plants require less care and, when established, many don’t require supplemental watering.
You can also reduce plants’ need for water by adding compost to flower beds and gardens. The compost helps the soil hold moisture and minimizes the need to water as often.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668