Outdoor Water Conservation
Outdoor water use, mostly lawn watering, accounts for the majority (55 percent) of Greeley's water use. As you might expect, demand peaks during the hot summer months. Outdoor water consists of watering lawns and landscapes, washing the car and cleaning sidewalks. The largest of the uses is the watering of lawns and landscapes. Approximately60 percent of our treated drinking water is used to water lawns. This is the single biggest area for savings. Doesn't it make sense to use our resources wisely, efficiently and to prevent waste? It is estimated that 50 percent of water used for irrigating lawns and gardens is wasted due to over watering and evaporation.
Lawn Watering Tips
- Don't water during hot or windy times of the day. Water loss to evaporation can be as much as 20 to 25 percent. Water droplets clinging to grass can actually cause the sun to “burn” individual blades. Water early in the morning or late at night. High winds also reduce efficiency.
- Keep your spray pattern coarse, low and slow . Fine mist or fog sprays are more likely to lose water to drifting and evaporation than coarse sprays. Water sprayed low is less subject to wind disturbance and is more likely to land where you've planned. Most soils in Greeley can absorb only about two-tenths of an inch of water per hour. Water applied beyond that amount will run off onto the sidewalk or adjacent properties.
- Use the cycle and soak method of watering. Run a sprinkler for 5-7 minutes and then let it soak while you move on to a new area. Then come back and do another short cycle.
- Based upon soil characteristics, water will soak into the ground at differing rates. Sandy soils have high (fast) infiltration rates, while clay soils have low (slow) infiltration rates. If the precipitation rate of the sprinkler heads exceeds the soil's infiltration rate, then runoff and erosion occur (especially on slopes). On flat ground, this will also lead to puddling. If your sprinklers' precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate, lower precipitation rate heads can be installed, or you can shorten your watering times and use multiple start times (e.g. 3 start times at 5 minutes each at 1-hour intervals instead of 15 minutes all at once) to allow the water to soak into the soil.
- Maintain your irrigation system regularly. Check the coverage of sprinkler heads routinely and adjust them if they create run-off on walks and driveways. Avoid leaks and breaks by clearing the system of water before the first frost. The tips below will help you avoid run-off and waste when you water your lawn.
- Adjust sprinklers to only spray on grass and planted surfaces, and away from paved surfaces. If you have sprinklers that spray across the sidewalks, retrofit them. There should be no wasteful overspray onto the sidewalk, patio, driveway or street. If there is overspray, replace the nozzle for another one with the appropriate spray pattern (e.g. 180° instead of 360°) or relocate the sprinkler head.
- Make sure that the spray from the head is not obstructed by vegetation or other objects. Trim back vegetation or raise the sprinkler heads as needed. This will increase the system's uniformity of coverage. If the spray pattern of a head is distorted, browns spots may develop on the lawn. This may be caused by blockage in the screen or in the nozzle itself, and the head may need to be cleaned .If this does not fix the problem, the nozzle may be worn and needs to be replaced.
Seasonal Outdoor Tips
Water Conservation is something everyone can easily practice through changing a few habits. Here are a few suggestions to help you conserve water and save money on your water bill.
- Reduce turf areas by planting shrubs, trees and other plants that require less water. Check out Plant Select for plants that grow well in our area. Greeley partners with the Center for RESource Conservation to offer a Garden-In-A-Box program each year to help residents install Xeriscape at a lower cost.
- Always use a restrictive nozzle when watering plants, flowers, gardens, or shrubs.
- Use drip irrigation for your vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs. The water lost to evaporation is minimal.
- Core aerate lawns in March or April. Be sure the ground isn't frozen or too dry to ensure deep full cores. Leave cores on the ground and let them break down naturally. Top dress your lawn with compost.
- Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass and other early annual weed seeds from sprouting (usually labeled as crabgrass presenter).
- Begin mowing grass, ideally maintaining a height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches or using the lawns mower's highest setting.
- Pressurize sprinkler systems and check for proper spray distribution. Check irrigation equipment for clogged nozzles or sprinkler heads for damage. Realign heads if necessary.
- Upgrade automatic sprinkler systems by adding soil-moisture meters, rain sensors, or evaportranspiration (ET) based controllers.
- Use a rain gauge to determine how much rain or irrigation your yard has received.
- It is time to prune shrubs and perennials. For advice on which species and for pruning tips, call City of Greeley Forestry at 339-2405.
- An irrigation system should be checked each spring before use to make sure it was not damaged by frost or freezing. An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
- Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.
- Water early in the morning or late at night.
- Instead of watering the whole lawn to help with brown spots, water the dry spots by hand.
- Whether you have a sprinkler system or water manually, keep your spray pattern coarse, low and slow. Fine mist or fog sprays are more likely to lose water from drifting and evaporation than coarse sprays.
- Water only when your lawn needs it. Some ways to tell if you lawn needs water are: the lawn takes on a blue-green or a gray tinge; footprints on the lawn don't bounce back after a couple minutes; or an area is always hard and uncomfortable to walk on barefoot.
- Set a timer if you water manually, so you don't forget to move the hose.
- Check and maintain your sprinkler system regularly. Greeley offers free sprinkler system assessments to help you find problems.
- Install a rain sensor to your automatic sprinkler system. This will override your controller during and after rain storms.
- Don't be a hoser. Sweep, never hose patios, sidewalks or driveways.
- Re-program your sprinkler every month to match your lawn's water needs. Evapotranspiration, or the E.T. rate, is the amount of water (in inches) a lawn in your area will use through the natural processes of surface evaporation and plant transpiration on any specific day. Constantly changing weather conditions make this a measurement that always must be updated.
- Don't scalp when you mow the lawn, remove no more than one third of the blade at a time. Keep your mower set between 2-3 inches.
- Consider removing turf along sidewalks if you can ' t keep it green. Replace with flower/shrub beds or mulch.
- When it snows, shovel the snow onto the landscape rather than a paved surface. Your lawn will benefit from the slow percolation of the snowmelt.
- Every winter, Greeley homeowners face the expense and inconvenience of frozen water pipes. But you can cross that off your list of winter worries by taking a few simple precautions.
- Evaluate winter watering needs and water when necessary within the watering restrictions. Use a soil probe to check the amount of water your lawn needs. Only water when air temperatures are above 40 degrees. During Fall and Winter (October through March) water trees one to two times per month depending on weather, temperature, and soil conditions.
- Read and educate yourself to reach a comfortable level of gardening competence. Most of all, share your experience with friends and family.
- Begin planning your Xeriscape. We have information to assist you in this process. Learn more about the seven steps of Xeriscape, customized design and microclimates.
Low Maintenance Landscaping Tips
- Limit turf areas to be manageable, easily mowed and watered. Eliminate long narrow strips and slopes.
- In your lawn, don't have sharp turns or hard places to get to with a mower. Plan gentle, sweeping curves or keep it rectangular. Rounded edges are easier to water with a hose end sprinkler. Rectangle shaped lawns are easier to water with a sprinkler system.
- Use rock or mulch in walkways, i.e. paths to gates, sheds or garden beds.
- Use mulched transition areas between lawn and paved surfaces, i.e. patios, sidewalks and driveways. Mulch reduces weeds and conserves water.
- Use drip irrigation to water trees and shrubs. These can be connected to automatic irrigation systems or a quick coupler on a spigot.
- Irrigation systems can be a time saver if properly designed, installed, managed and maintained.
- Don't plant trees and shrubs in the lawn areas. Plant trees, shrubs and perennials in mulched beds separate from lawns.
- If you already have a tree in the lawn, mulch around the base to eliminate mowing up to the trunk and damaging surface roots.
- Keep grass and water loving plants away from the foundations of buildings.
- Use plants that don ' t require weekly maintenance. Ornamental grasses, for example, only need to be cut down in the spring.
- Bluegrass is the most forgiving type of turf for a lot of traffic. Limit Bluegrass in the lawn to practical areas.
- Select native plants that require less water, fertilizer and pesticide.
- Prep your soil properly. Amend the soil with 4-6 cubic yards of compost rototilled down 6-8" before planting. If you have a south facing slope, use more compost. Using compost is the single most important thing you can do for your landscape!
Tree Watering Basics
When should I water my trees?
Throughout the year, you can water your trees anytime by hand, by a deep root fork or needle, or with a soaker/drip hose. The amount of water to use, is based on the trunk diameter and monthly frequency.
In the Spring and Summer water small trees 4 times per month, medium trees 3 times per month and large trees 2 times per month. During the fall and winter, October through March, water one to two times per month, depending on weather, temperature, and soil conditions. You should water in the winter when it is above 40 degrees and when there is no snow cover. Watering your trees is essential during dry periods in the fall, winter, and early spring, when you aren't watering your lawn.
Where should I water my mature tree?
- Measure the circumference (in inches) of the tree at 4.5 feet high.
- Divide this number by 2 and then measure out that many feet from the trunk. For example, if a tree has a 60" circumference, the majority of the roots will be within 30 feet from the trunk in all directions. This is called the dripline.
- Keep in mind that most of a tree's roots are in the top 12" of soil. To water wisely, water only through the plant's root depth. If you are using a deep root watering device, don ' t water past the roots. You can test this by using a soil probe after you water. Adjust your watering time based on the soil probe results.
How much water should I apply?
- Utilize the following “rule of thumb” for watering the appropriate classification of tree:
- small trees (1”-3” diameter) 10 gallons/inch
- medium trees (4”-8” diameter) 10 gallons/inch
- large trees (10”+ diameter) 15 gallons/inch
- Use a ruler to measure your tree's diameter.
- Tree roots are not like carrots. Tree root systems can spread 2 – 3 times wider than the height of the tree. Most of the tree's absorbing roots are in the top twelve inches of soil.
- Water deeply and slowly, allow the water to seep to the critical root zone at a depth of 12 inches. Apply water to many locations under the dripline. If a deep root fork or needle is used, insert the device no deeper than 8 inches into the soil.
- Consistent moisture is essential. It allows for better root water absorption. Drought stressed trees are more vulnerable to disease, insect infestations, and branch dieback.
- Mulch is critical to conserve soil moisture. Apply organic mulch within the dripline, to a depth of 4 inches. It's best to eliminate turf prior to adding mulch. Leave a 6-inch space between the mulch and trunk of the tree. Mulch materials may include wood chips, bark, leaves, and evergreen needles.
Hosing and Car Washing
Environmental and Conservation Issues
Car washing, window washing and hosing paved surfaces are not only wasteful water use practices, but they are harmful to the storm drain system and wildlife. Because of environmental and conservation issues, the City of Greeley will allow some home washing activities as long as water does not run off of the property. Also be aware of hazardous cross connections when putting chemicals on the lawn or using a hose.
Because an open hose can deliver up to 10 gallons of water per minute, The City of Greeley restricts the use of open hoses. Please attach a nozzle with a positive shutoff when using your hose. If excessive water is running down the pavement or gutter, you may be cited for water waste.
Sweep patios, sidewalks, and driveways. They along with any other paved or non-permeable surfaces do not need to be hosed or washed off. Please call 336-4134 if you have additional questions or concerns.
Home car washing may be done by a hose equipped with a restrictive nozzle and a bucket. The City of Greeley encourages you to wash cars at the carwash, since studies have proven that it uses less water than a home wash. Commercial carwashes are designed to handle the dirt, salts, oil and grease that wash off the vehicle. Washing your car at home contributes to stormwater pollution.
Occasional washing/hosing of vinyl siding, windows, roof gutters, and washing in preparation for painting or staining is allowed, so long as water and/or debris does not wash off the property.
The primary purpose of storm drains is to carry rainwater away from developed areas to prevent flooding. Wash-water from power washing activities may contain significant quantities of oil and grease, chemicals, dirt, and detergents that can end up in our creeks, lakes and rivers. The detergent used in cleaning activities, even those labeled “non toxic” and “biodegradable” may cause immediate harm to fish and wildlife. Law prohibits allowing these wash-waters to enter the storm drains, streets, and water bodies.
No off property discharge is the most popular environmental power washing option today. No problem exists if no wash water leaves the property where the washing is accomplished. Another option is to contain the wash water and dispose of it on site to the sanitary sewer thru a floor drain or sink drain.
Any unprotected actual or potential connection to the public water system from a customer's water system, or any other source through which it is possible to introduce any used water, industrial fluid, gas, pesticide, or substances not meeting Colorado's Primary Drinking Water Regulation requirements, is a hazardous cross connection.
Residential contamination may come from irrigation systems, garden hoses connected to chemical spray bottles, chemicals in water beds, aquariums, swamp coolers, hot tubs, indoor and outdoor pools, and water features. Never leave hoses in buckets, pools, or mop sinks. Comply with local law by installing devices, called backflow prevention assemblies, on your water piping at the point where actual or potential cross connections exist. Be aware that plumbing installers understand the hazards resulting from direction connections outweigh any convenience gained. Plumbing installers are also aware that hydraulic and pollution factors may combine to produce a health hazard if a cross connection exists.