Why outdoor water conservation matters

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Brought to you by Bernalillo County Natural Resource Water Conservation

In recent years, the focus of water conservation has shifted from indoors to outdoors. There are several reasons for this change. First, opportunities for indoor water savings have diminished after more than 25 years of federal regulations requiring water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances. Second, our region is warming due to climate change. The higher temperatures and longer growing season mean our landscapes use more water. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Program estimates that more that 50% of water used outdoors is wasted due to inefficient irrigation methods and systems. 

There are simple ways to improve water efficiency outdoors.

  1. Apply only the water your plants need.

Plants benefit from deep but infrequent watering. Your goal is to water through the root zone of the plant with each application of water. Use a probe (e.g. a long screwdriver) to check the watering depth after irrigating. Adjust your watering schedule each month in accordance with the weather. Ramp up your water use in spring as temperatures warm and plants put on new growth. Ramp down your watering in the fall beginning in August as temperatures cool and days grow shorter. Add or subtract days instead of changing run times, so you maintain the correct watering depth for the plant. For more information on how to water, see the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Seasonal Watering Recommendations.

  1. Use an efficient irrigation system.

If you use an irrigation system, drip irrigation is the right choice for all plants except turf grasses. Drip irrigation applies water directly to the root zone of plants, minimizing evaporation and runoff. If feasible, put deep-rooted plants (e.g. trees and shrubs) on a separate irrigation zone from shallow-rooted plants (e.g. perennials), so run times and frequency of irrigation can be matched to plant water needs. Consider installing a smart irrigation controller that sets your irrigation schedule in accordance with weather and site conditions. Bernalillo County residents who are not connected to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority water system can receive a discounted ($90-$110) smart irrigation controller through Bernalillo County’s Smart Irrigation Controller Program. Water Authority customers can receive a rebate of 25% up to $100 on a smart irrigation controller, among several Irrigation Efficiency Rebates.

  1. Maintain your irrigation system.

All irrigation systems need maintenance. At minimum, walk your irrigation system at the beginning of every irrigation season to look for leaks and maintenance needs. Use this Irrigation Maintenance Checklist from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority as a guide. Investing a couple of hours in maintenance each year can save tens of thousands of gallons of water.

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