Dial it Down

By Megan Hatch, Conservation Garden Park

I saw an advertisement at work this week that read, “Did you know most water waste happens in the fall?…Dial it down.” Well, I didn’t know that—and I didn’t believe it either. How could more water be wasted in September and October than during the hottest months of the summer? It didn’t make sense. So, I did what I normally do in situations like this; I e-mailed my co-workers at Conservation Garden Park. Here’s what I learned:

The Utah Division of Water Resources (DWRe) has studied water use in Utah and found that Utahns do waste more water during the fall than any other time of year. There are a few reasons for this, but one is simply that many of us operate our sprinkler systems in a “set and forget” mode—setting the timer to a frequency that may make sense in July but is more than the landscape needs or can handle earlier and later in the year.

It turns out, automatic irrigation timers are a convenience but are not efficient in and of themselves. In order to prevent water waste, we need to learn how to adjust our water usage with the seasons (aka dialing it down in the fall).

In the same study by DWRe, it was found that less than one percent of Utah residents know how many inches of water they apply to their lawns, and on average, Utahns tend to over-water their yards by nearly 20 percent. These are facts I can believe, since more than 60 percent of Utah’s culinary water is currently being used to maintain outdoor landscapes.

With summer winding down, it is more important than ever for Utahns to consider their irrigation. Not only are temperatures cooler, but during the fall your lawn is also starting to go dormant in preparation for the winter and requires less water. Generally speaking, Labor Day (which happens to be this weekend) is a good time to cut back watering to once every five days. By Columbus Day you should be able to stop watering altogether.

Dialing down your sprinkler use will not only reduce fall water waste, but it is also better for your lawn. Roots grow where water is. If water is always available at the soil surface, the roots won’t grow deeper. Deeper roots mean your grass can reach deeper soil moisture, which allows you to use less water while still keeping your lawn green.

In Utah, we all receive and apply water to our landscapes in different ways- some have automated systems or use culinary water, others may hand water or flood irrigate with secondary water from pipes or canals. Regardless of how you irrigate, adjusting your water usage with the seasons will eliminate waste and conserve our supply. Remember to dial it down this fall!

Conservation Garden Park is a free, 6-acre botanical garden in West Jordan (8275 South 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah 84088) that teaches homeowners how to landscape for Utah’s climate. https://conservationgardenpark.org/