Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My turn: Turn your irrigation off, please!

by Alan Day

Wonderful! The series of storms last week in Northern California, with the snowfall and steady soaking rains, was absolutely wonderful. You could almost hear the ground drinking it in.

But the drought is far from over. Much like other water districts, here in El Dorado County at the El Dorado Irrigation District we have declared an emergency and are at a Stage 2 drought warning. Currently we are asking all our customers (homeowners, businesses, institutional and agricultural) to voluntarily find ways to reduce water consumption by 30 percent.

We’ll be measuring this systemwide from the outflow of our water treatment facilities. At this point we won’t be going door-to-door checking up on individuals; it’s on the honor system.

I’m hoping that everyone pulls together to save water and to encourage their friends, neighbors and employers to save water. We need to see a dramatic reduction in water use to save as much as possible for this summer and beyond.

If we see those reductions we can keep things on a voluntary basis. Failing that, and with continuing drought, the EID board might be forced to look at mandatory restrictions and/or rate surcharges. Both of which, as board president, I would like to avoid if at all possible.

Can we reduce our consumption of water that much? I believe so. If you are already conserving a lot, great — please try to find a couple more ways to save; if not trying too hard, then please get busy. It’s not as hard as it may seem. Go to EID’s Website ( for great tips on how to find water savings.

In particular, reducing water use by 30 percent is readily achievable for many, given that outdoor irrigation can account for 40-60  percent of a typical residential customer’s water use.

So please, go turn your outdoor irrigation off for awhile.

And keep it off for as long as possible. Personally, since we had that nice soaking rain, I’m going to keep our outdoor irrigation system off for several weeks, well into March if at all possible. Yes, really, several weeks (or more if we get any more rain).

The nights are cool, the days relatively short, so there is very little evaporation and little plant growth activity this time of year. Even in the recent dry days of January this was true.

Unfortunately, many folks watered too much in January. EID’s data showed that, and I’ve talked with people who told me they were watering three days a week, every other day, or a few who were watering every day. Some were dumping a bunch of water on their freeze damaged/dormant lawns and plants ‘cause they looked brown and dry. Unfortunately, most of that water did not help the plants and was just lost to us for good.

When you do start irrigating again do so gradually. The single best irrigation practice is to water deeply, but as infrequently as possible. This means multiple short cycles, all in the same day, to soak the water in while avoiding runoff. Then not watering for several days, a week, or more. If you can get the water down deeper, your plant roots will grow deeper as well where water and roots both stay cooler with much less evaporation. Even if the surface dries out the moisture is still down there keeping the plants cool, hydrated and happy.

Having or putting a good layer of organic matter over the soil and roots will help a great deal as well. A couple inches of mulch, bark or even a light layer of leaves (much like in nature) really makes a big difference in moisture retention.

We need to save every drop of water we can, there is no telling if or when the drought will ease up. Last week’s storms were wonderful, but we need five or six more big ones like it to make a real dent. Hopefully, colder storms, too, to help with the snowpack. But time is not on our side.

Please join me in finding ways to save water, and in particular turn your outdoor irrigation system off for as long as possible. If you are unsure how long to keep it off there are inexpensive moisture sensors that you can get to test your soil from time to time; or, be an old school gardener like me and test the soil with your finger!

Alan Day is EID board president and represents District 5 in El Dorado Hills; owner of a landscape business; and a former UC Master Gardener. 

Special to the Democrat


Discussion | 9 comments

  • James E.February 14, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    I took a two minute shower this morning. It can be done. And, my water tip for the day: When you wash your hands a trickle of water will do instead of full flow.

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  • Fran DuchampFebruary 14, 2014 - 5:04 pm

    People who want all those rooftops... Realtors, developers, chamber, CEDAC, and CEDAPP--please read articles about saving water...unless we are saving water so that you can built those roof tops and roundabouts. Wait a min. Some of the CEDAC people grow grapes and apples....are you cutting back as well? <---keep this in mind when they are talking about LUPPU :)

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  • Miss MFebruary 14, 2014 - 6:14 pm

    Is it possible to water tank the rain for private property use (gardening, etc. ) or is this illegal in your county?

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  • It's the water!....and a lot more.February 15, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    No and yes.

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  • cookie65February 19, 2014 - 11:08 am

    If it is illegal the EPA will be flying a drone over your house. Comforting thought isn't it. We aren't in Kansas anymore.

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  • Liberal TaxpayerFebruary 19, 2014 - 11:56 am

    We certainly are not in Kansas. And it's a good thing we are not in West Virginia. That's where the right have managed to eliminate all inspections by the EPA. And we all know what happened there. Or, we could be in Russia where hotel water will chemically burn your face. No EPA in Mother Russia? You betcha! Be careful and maybe a little more concerned about this ugly, polluted country you are wishing for. I love America AND California and I don't want to see either one destroyed by people who want to run willy nilly with our environment.

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  • cookie65February 19, 2014 - 12:53 pm

    Your ideology will have this country looking like Russia long before mine will. Compare the ghettos and bastions of prosperity created by your ideology peppering this country and compare anyone of them to mother Russia comrade. They suffer from what all leftist experiments suffer from, financial ruin. Leftism isn't just an environmental disaster, it is also a human disaster.

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  • Frank Barnes, Grizzly FlatFebruary 20, 2014 - 5:54 am

    The real issue here is about freedom, most people have a hard time justifying washing their hands w only a trickle of water after watching Jerry Brown's ridiculous pirate ship show followed by the water fountain spectacle - this goes on 365 days a year - how much water does that use?? People would still come to the casinos without all that - I will take shorter showers when Caesar's Palace turns off their faucets!!!

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  • Jim RiordanFebruary 20, 2014 - 2:09 pm

    Alan, one nagging question. One resident and his wife, who have been allegedly conserving water already, per EID's LAST request to do so, are now wondering what to do since they are now at the absolute lowest water usage they can achieve. They simply cannot reduce their consumption any more. I understand their dilemma. If you do not take that into consideration, how will EID get others to conserve if they see that they will eventually end up in the same situation; in effect being punished for conserving? Why is it that EID cannot determine a minimum usage for 2 people, 4 people, 6 people etc., and then notify residents of that usage "limit" before folks end up having to take showers with bottled water because 30% of what they are using NOW would result in only a trickle? Wouldn't it be smarter to simply say no more NEW home hook ups until such time as EID can project those minimum usage numbers for EXISTING homes?

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