Justin White, Landscaping Lessons | When in drought: What you can do to prepare your landscaping – Santa Cruz Sentinel
We are currently undergoing a level 1 water scarcity alert in Santa Cruz. In level 1, each user is provided with a monthly water usage quota or a budget. This gives the homeowner or building owner an overview of how much they are currently consuming compared to their budget.
There are currently no penalties for exceeding your budget in phase 1, only a notification to the water authority, which will notify you of your overuse. However, if Santa Cruz Water decides to go into a “Level 2 Low Water Alarm”, the penalties will be applied to those users who go over their budget. There is a lot of discussion going on right now on this issue and we could see a transition to Phase 2 in the coming months, but more likely it will go into effect next May.
Whether you are in the Santa Cruz area or covered by another water district, you are likely to face fines for overuse in the next 12 months. With the population growing and with no clear drought-proof plan for increased water supplies in Santa Cruz, water restrictions and fines could become an integral part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
There are steps you can take now to reduce your fines and penalties in the years to come, and I’ll go over a few of them.
This information is aimed at homeowners and small commercial properties. If you are a large property owner or HOA and have a monthly water bill of over $ 3,000 per month, consider partnering with an irrigation management or landscaping company that specializes in reducing and managing water usage to reduce these costs. The money you can save on water should cover the cost of this service. This provider may need to work in addition to your typical landscaping business.
Here are some ways to reduce water usage and prepare for the future:
Program your irrigation controller correctly. The first thing we do when evaluating a property’s water use efficiency is to review the controller program plan. If your controller is not programmed for the correct amount of water, efficient system improvements will not help either. It all starts here and there are plenty of resources to help you with this process.
Install highly efficient sprinkler nozzles. I recommend MP rotary nozzles available from Ewing Irrigation in Soquel. These sprinkler nozzles distribute the water more evenly and effectively and reduce water loss through wind or evaporation.
Install sprinklers with check valves. Check valves help prevent sprinklers from entering. When your irrigation valve closes, the water left in the line will usually drain from the lowest sprinkler head. We call this “low head drainage” and it can be a real problem on slopes. If you have a low part of your garden that is always wet, this can be the problem. A check valve actually closes the sprinkler once the pressure drops below a certain threshold and keeps the water in the irrigation line until the next time your system is turned on.
Install a check valve on your anti-siphon control valves if they are below your irrigation lines. Similar to your sprinklers, you could have the same problem with your valve if it were 1) anti-siphon valves and 2) under your irrigation lines. When a valve is closed, the remaining water in the line drains out of the valve and wastes a significant amount of water. You can install a check valve on the downstream side of your control valve to reduce this problem.
Replace sprinklers for drip irrigation in plant beds. Drip irrigation is a great way to reduce water and only apply the water you need directly to the plant instead of the entire planting bed.
Install mulch around your plants. Not only does this look better, but it also helps keep the water moisture in the soil.
Replace high water-consuming plants with native drought-resistant plants. This also includes lawns. If you have a lawn that is not used as a play area for kids or dogs and is only aesthetic, consider removing it and installing some native, drought tolerant, non-mowing grass that can serve the same purpose as a Fraction of the turf used is amount of water.
These are just a few water saving techniques, but the most important water saving ingredient in your landscape is you. By simply paying attention to your controller and the needs of your landscape, you can save a generous amount of water. Keep in mind that most landscape problems are caused by overwatering, so turn down this controller “on drought”.
Justin White is the CEO of K&D Landscaping, headquartered in Watsonville, California, and was named Business of the Year 2020 by the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce. White is also the current president of the local California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) on the central coast. He is involved in several nonprofit organizations across the community. For more information on landscaping, outdoor and gardening needs, please contact K&D Landscaping at kndlandscaping.com.