At last, the final installment of my three part series is complete: a summary of the most influential program of the Center for ReSource Conservation's Water Division, Slow the Flow Colorado
I believe that this project is the best because I had the opportunity to directly contribute to its success last summer. I was hired as an intern to be the Irrigation Audit Scheduler for Slow the Flow, or STF for brevity's sake. Let me explain more about STF before I go more into depth about my personal experience at the CRC.
50% of Colorado's water is used on lawns!
The primary goal of the Water Division is to reduce overall summer water usage in the state by eliminating waste often attributed to watering non-native grass lawns. STF strives to educate patrons to plant less grass, but not necessarily go 'grass-less'. Front yards are often composed solely of grass, yet is rarely utilized for recreation purposes. The STF irrigation auditor provides information on how to easily convert lawn areas to beautiful xeric gardens or even a native grass species, like buffalo grass instead of the ever-popular Kentucky bluegrass (which are similar in appearance; see pictures below). Regardless of the make-up of the landscape, one can generally reduce lawn watering times when the actual water needs of the grass species are understood.
Overview of Slow the Flow Colorado
The program aims to help people understand the actual water needs of their grass lawns. STF trains individual irrigation auditors who perform a complete diagnostic on site to evaluate existing sprinkler function. The auditors provide the homeowner, property manager or landscape crew a written report stating exactly how long each sprinkler zone needs to run each day to keep the grass green and healthy. This audit prevents frequent mistakes like overwatering grass or watering xeric gardens that utilize drip irrigation (see the Part 2 blog from last week)
. In addition, the auditor demonstrates how to position each sprinkler head to prevent overspray onto pavement and fences, or overlap between zones. The customer is shown how to properly program their control clock for each sprinkler zone.
STF is a free service, paid for in part by the CRC and participating water districts along the Front Range. New cities are incorporated each year, since the program commenced in Boulder several years ago. Those residents who receive water from the city of Boulder, Aurora Water, Castle Pines Metro District, town of Castle Rock, Centennial Water, town of Erie, city of Golden, city of Lafayette, Left Hand Water District, city of Longmont, city of Louisville, city of Northglenn, town of Superior, city of Thornton, or Westminster
are eligible for a free irrigation inspection if there is an existing underground sprinkler system. Commercial properties and homeowner's associations are also eligible in certain areas. Please call the CRC at 303-999-3820 x 217 to request an appointment. Please note that some cities have wait lists from last summer and you may have to wait until summer 2010 to receive your free audit. FAQ's about the audit process are available online here
Even though every lawn has different water needs (depending on light intensity, soil type, design of landscape, plant biology), here are some tips I learned last summer that might help you decrease your water usage while increasing the health (and beauty) of your grass and save money on water bills.
Check all individual sprinkler heads at least yearly. If there is a leaky head, replace it. If there is overspray onto pavement or fences, re-position the head by simply twisting the top portion of the head. If there is misting present, there is likely a leak, affecting water pressure. In this case, a professional should be consulted.
Water your lawn twice per day, in the early morning and in the late evening throughout the summer months. Evaporation during the day accounts for much water loss. Installing a control clock will make this process easier; read the inside panel to find out how to program your existing one.
Don't neglect your lawn during the cooler months. Water your lawn weekly and make sure to aerate your grass once in the late fall and once early spring to maintain lawn health.
Yellow patches may also occur from overwatering, contrary to common sense. Perform an audit at home if STF is unavailable to you this year to determine your lawn's actual water needs. Follow this step-by-step DIY guide
from Texas A&M, using aluminum cans as catch cups, to increase water efficiency.
Consider removing grass from hard to water areas, like strips between sidewalks and streets. More water is wasted than is utilized by the grass, and needlessly so. Recent legislation in California has made it illegal to plant grass on medians. That state realizes how rocks or mulch with pretty bushes help conserve water while maintaining aesthetics.
Irrigation audit scheduler
As an intern for the Water Division, I was the main contact between the potential customers and the irrigation auditors. By answering inquiries and questions, I was able to help educate the public on simple ways to decrease their household water consumption. I was responsible for coordinating the schedules for all 16 auditors in 15 Front Range cities and served as the primary contact in case of any problems. I loved to edit the long HOA reports, which provided the manager the information to decrease water usage for up to 300 homes! I would recommend interning with a local nonprofit if you are interested in educating the public on conservation issues.
If you see water waste within your community, take action and notify the property manager and/or city. Overspray from sprinklers onto sidewalks is an easily solved but commonplace problem. Coloradoans, help conserve your water resources!