It’s almost summer again (I’m being optimistic, it’s late March at time of writing). Summer in Lethbridge is hot and our semi-arid Prairie climate means it’s also very dry! Although water scarcity isn’t on the top of most Canadians’ minds, it’s something we should consider, particularly in the Prairies. It’s not just about the actual amount of water or even the cost of water (it’s almost too cheap), but it’s also about the energy that goes into treating it, transporting it, and processing wastewater for release back into our mighty river. It’s a lot of energy and by trying to save water we can make a difference on lots of levels.
Did you know, most lawns only need an inch of water once per week in summer? Lawns are also often over-watered and waste a lot of water to evaporation. A Frisbee is a great way to measure the amount of water, pop it out under your sprinkler and watch to see how long it is until it fills, then that’s how long you set your timer for. Install timers for your garden faucets, models run from $15 for a simple timer to around $80 for a more complex system, and set the timer for the early morning once or twice a week. It’s better to water for longer periods of time less frequently as this ensures the water seeps down deeper into the soil.
Watering equipment also plays a part in how much water is saved and lost. Sprinklers should be suited to the size and shape of the lawn, that way you avoid watering driveways, fences or sidewalks, or unwittingly – pedestrians! Sprinklers that lay water down in a flat pattern are better than oscillating sprinklers which lose 50% of what they draw from your pipes through evaporation. Drip irrigation systems which apply water only to the root zone are the most efficient alternative, simple soaker or drip hoses are $20-25.
Also, remember not to cut your grass too low as this also increases evaporation, lift the height of your mower as higher grass shades the soil and reduces evaporation. Leaving the grass clippings on the ground helps to increase organic matter in your lawn also helping with water retention.
Cleaning your car
Did you know there is a by-law against households washing their cars in driveways in Lethbridge? So not only is it bad for the environment, you can be fined. If you do wash your car at home, do it on your lawn if possible and use a pail and a high efficiency high powered hose to rinse. Or, just skip washing it altogether and let the rain do your hard work for you from time to time! It’s a great way to save yourself time on household chores and you can use water conservation as a legitimate excuse – win!
Do not hose concrete surfaces (e.g. driveway)
This is an interesting phenomenon, but one that can easily be avoided. Washing down your drive or footpath washes all the debris into the storm water which ends up in our local waterways unprocessed. Try sweeping instead if your drive is dirty.
Outdoor water usage makes up a large percentage of the water we use every summer when our water levels are typically at their lowest. These simple tips can help all of us make it through the long dry summers together.