Fall among worst times of year for water waste, officials say

ST. GEORGE — While summer is often associated with high-water use, the beginning of fall is actually among the worst times for wasteful water use, according to county water mangers.

Stock image by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Zach Renstrom, Washington County Water Conservancy District general manager, said that in the spring it can be easy to spot signs that a plant is water-stressed and not getting enough water to survive, so people will turn up their irrigation in the spring time.

It’s not so easy to tell when the same plants are being overwatered later on, he said.

“In the fall, what happens is the plants start to go dormant, and they can’t necessarily say, ‘We’re getting too much water,’ so people don’t dial back their their (irrigation) clocks back fast enough,” Renstrom said.

This is a common issue, he added, which is one of the reasons the water district launched the rock and roll-themed “Clock On!” campaign in early September. The current watering recommendations for the county are one to three days per week through the end of October, at which point it drops down to just one day.

Like other desert communities, more than 50% of Washington County’s water is used on landscapes. According to the water district, dialing back the irrigation/sprinkler clocks across the county can save up to 400 million gallons of water a month. On a daily basis, cutting back on outdoor watering can save an average of 1,500 gallons.

The “Clock On!” campaign is the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s latest effort to promote reduced water used during the drought | Image courtesy of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, St. George News

Additional details about the Clock On! campaign and water conservation tips can be found on the water district’s website.

Conservation efforts have come to the forefront this past year due to the increasing severity of the drought that has choked much of the American West for over 20 years. With the winter of 2020-21 being particularly “dismal” due to lack of snowpack production and resulting runoff into the Colorado River and other water bodies, efforts to save as much water as possible have gone into overdrive across the region.

Among these efforts is a call for both residents and commercial properties to convert to more water-efficient landscaping.

“In our climate, it takes 60 inches of water annually for grass compared to 14 inches for water-efficient landscape,” Karry Rathje, communications and government affairs director for the water district, said. “That’s a huge difference.”

It’s also a good idea to remove any unnecessary turf, Rathje added. This practice is being pursued by local governments and state agencies, and not far across the border to the southwest, Las Vegas water officials asked the state Legislature to ban “nonfunctional grass.”

Plants featured at the Red Cliffs Desert Garden in St. George, Utah, Oct. 25, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

For those looking to convert their lawns into something more water-friendly, fall is a great time to do it, both Rathje and Renstrom said.

People can inspect their irrigation systems to make sure they are in working order and aren’t leaking water anywhere or even switch to a drip system, Renstrom said, adding that residents don’t necessarily need to rip up vegetation to save on water if they can improve their watering system.

For people interested in putting in more water-friendly plants, Renstrom encourages them to visit the water district’s Red Cliffs Desert Garden in St. George, as well as the The Boilers Park in Washington City. Both of these facilities are filled with water efficient, desert-friendly plants people can plant in their own yards. Each plant featured has a placard in front of them with the plant name and a QR code that can be scanned by phone for more information.

The water district also currently offers a $30 rebate for people who buy water-friendly trees from participating nurseries.

Additional water conservation related rebates, classes and programs the water district hosts can be found under the “conservation” tab found along the top of the water district’s website.

Many of the same principles related to water efficiency for landscaping also apply to gardens, Renstrom said.

“You can have a vary luscious garden, but it’s the same thing. There are certain fruits and certain vegetables that are water-friendly and can handle our heat a little better,” he said. “Just look at the plants you’re using.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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