July 5, 2011

Using Water Wisely

Central Iowa and most parts of the state are fortunate to have sufficient rainfall to meet the needs of residential, business, industrial, and governmental customers during most years and the summer months. 

Des Moines Water Works has made significant financial investments in treatment plants, pumps, tanks, piping, and reservoir storage to meet customers’ potable water needs.  The water utility’s assets can be most efficiently operated during the very hottest of summer days when our customers use water wisely.  Wise use of water is defined as being alert to and repairing leaking household appliances, taking advantage of technological advances to eliminate waste and avoiding irrigation use during the hottest part of the day.

By far, the highest water use during hot, summer days is for lawn or turf grass irrigation.  There are more automated, in-ground lawn sprinkler systems in use today.  These systems require regular maintenance to operate efficiently by directing water only onto the turf and during certain times of the day to minimize loss from evaporation.  To that end, DMWW recommends the following:

  • Test the irrigation system each spring to ensure there are no leaking sprinkler heads and that each head is properly directing its spray onto the turf and landscape.
  • It is recommended that customers voluntarily avoid lawn watering, whether from an in-ground sprinkler system or manual sprinkler, during the day time hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Evaporation from the sun is highest during this time period and less water is absorbed into the soil, meaning more water must be used to get the same effect than if watering is done outside these hours.
  • Most soils in the Des Moines area can support a healthy turf, if watered no more frequently than every other day.  ISU Extension pamphlet PM 1063, found at their Web page: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1063.pdf, says “Kentucky Bluegrass will withstand drought by becoming dormant.  If irrigation is begun in a drought, continue to water during the drought period.  Apply water infrequently, but in sufficient amounts to wet the soil to six-inch depth.”  Turf grasses in clayey, silty soils found in most parts of the metro area may require up to one inch to one-half inches of water per week.  These soils typically cannot absorb this much water during one irrigation cycle.  Adjust your sprinkler time so you are applying from one-fourth inch to one-half inch of water during each irrigation day or cycle.
  • It is recommended that customers voluntarily shift watering to no more frequently than the ODD numbered days of the week if their house address ends with an ODD number and EVEN numbered days if their house address ends with an EVEN number.  For example, if your house number is “1521,” it is suggested that you water on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and so on.
  • For in-ground irrigation systems, install a moisture sensor that will turn off the irrigation system during its normal run cycle when there has been sufficient rainfall.
  • When possible, avoid laying sod during July and the first three weeks of August.  These typically are the hottest months and weeks of the year.  New sod has no established root system and therefore requires daily watering during hot summer days to keep it alive.  Beginning the last week in August and through the fall is the best time for laying sod. Grass seed is also best used during this late summer, fall time period.
  • Consult your preferred garden center, lawn or landscape professional, or ISU Extension horticulturalist for tips and consultation for your specific lawn and landscape care and watering needs.  Also, visit the Des Moines Water Works Website for other water saving tips.

More Tips for Saving Water Outdoors

Testing your Sprinkler System: http://www.dmww.com/UsingWaterWisely/TestingYourSprinklerSystem.pdf

Reduce Your Water Needs with Compost: http://www.dmww.com/UsingWaterWisely/ReduceYourWaterNeedsWithCompost.pdf

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 3 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Conservation, Infrastructure

3 Responses to “Using Water Wisely”

  1. July 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm, Gramarous said:

    Has DSM Water Works done any studies or given consideration to a water barrel program of some sort? Couldn’t metro residents be offered some affordable rain barrels that would be paid for over time on their water bills and such barrels would surely lower sewer usage charges? If a lot of people in the metro collected water and snow melt in rain barrels, all year long, it would surely be a significant amount of water not going into sewers and rivers, not to mention savings on water treatment. Instead of using water from the faucet during dry periods in the summer and fall, people could be using rain water.


    • July 21, 2011 at 9:56 am, Laura Sarcone said:

      Thanks for your comment, Gramarous. Des Moines Water Works is researching your suggestion in conjunction with the City of Des Moines. Stay tuned for more information.


    • July 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm, Laura Sarcone said:

      Rain barrels are gaining in popularity and DMWW supports customers using water resources wisely. Unlike some areas of the country, Iowa is fortunate to have ample source water resources, and neither DMWW nor the City of Des Moines have plans to offer a rain barrel rebate at this time. We continually evaluate our resources and services, however, and it may be something that would be considered for the future. Thanks!


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