Friday, March 21, 2014

40-Gallon Challenge and World Water Day

This year, UGA Extension in Cobb County is beginning active promotion of the 40-Gallon Challenge, a water-saving program that encourages specific, easy changes to save as much as 1000 gallons of water per household per month, for participating households.

The program is designed to deliver a couple of key benefits as outcomes:  "Reducing water usage at home not only saves this precious resource, it also helps homeowners keep more money in their wallets."

In the 40-Gallon Challenge, households are asked to pledge to make changes that will save water. The top three most-chosen changes to date are "reduce irrigation station run times by 2 minutes," "use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks," and "fix a leaky toilet."  If the changes in water use add up to savings of 40 gallons each day, then the total monthly savings will be about 1000 gallons, and that large a savings is going to have a much-appreciated, lowering effect on a monthly water bill.

The list of specific water-saving changes and how much water each change saves is posted HERE.

This announcement for the 40-Gallon Challenge is being posted today, because tomorrow, Saturday, March 22, is World Water Day. The goals for the special day this year include highlighting the relationship between water and energy, working to bring clean water to the many, many people who currently don't have access, and working toward sustainable water use.

One implication of World Water Day is that other parts of the world are focusing on water use, too. Area citizens who decide to join the challenge will have a lot of company in their quest to use water more efficiently, and not just in the state of Georgia!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Irrigation Basics, Guest Post by Becky Griffin

We tend to take our irrigation systems for granted, setting them up and forgetting about them.  Ideally, irrigation systems should be inspected by a certified irrigation professional once a year.  The underground pipes and delivery systems can be complicated.  Oftentimes, irrigation is set to run after we have left for work.  We could have a problem and not even know it.  March is a great time for a basic homeowner irrigation check.

Basic Irrigation Checklist

1.       Check to see if the system is set to run at the appropriate time.  The 2010 Outdoor Water Use Guidelines allow automatic irrigation systems to run between 4 PM and 10 AM.  Ideally, for turfgrass the system should run between 5 AM and 9 AM.  This mimics dew time and allows the turfgrass to dry off before the heat of the day.  It is also the best time to minimize water evaporation.  
2.       Turn the system on.  Is there adequate overlap of water?  Notice any dry spots.  You may need to adjust sprinkler heads to achieve equal coverage.

3.       Check sprinkler heads.  Are they all working?  Sprinkler heads are easily damaged by lawn mowers.  These may need to be replaced.

4.       If something is obviously clogged it may be the sprinkler head nozzle or the sprinkler head filter.  Sprinkler head nozzles may become clogged with soil or cut grass.  To run efficiently, these will need to be cleaned.  Inside most sprinkler heads is a filter.  Over time this filter may become clogged, especially if the system runs on well water.  Filters can be cleaned with compressed air or replaced.  
5.       Notice the pop-up sprinkler heads.  Are they popping up?  Are they high enough?  Over time the ground may have settled and the heads may not be at the correct level for effective watering.  
No need to water the sidewalk!

      6.       Check that no water is being sprayed on non-target areas such as driveways, streets and building.  Problems here may just require a simple nozzle direction adjustment.

7.   Make note of any run-off. If the water is being delivered too quickly, it might not have time to soak into the soil, and you may be sending hundreds of gallons of water down the street. If run-off is a problem, you may need to adjust the delivery rate.

Remember that turfgrass needs just one inch of water per week.  More turfgrass problems are related to over-watering than to under-watering.

Becky Griffin is a program associate with the  UGA Center for Urban Agriculture.