Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, July 22, 2006
"Coping with Drought Restrictions"
Drought restrictions were declared this week when the Aquifer levels fell below 650
feet. The restrictions are designed to
protect the Aquifer as a resource and the endangered species that live in the
springs fed by the Aquifer. The
restrictions in San Antonio reduce
discretionary landscape watering while providing enough water to protect the
investment in our landscapes. The key
restriction in Stage One is to limit watering with sprinklers to one day a week
based on the last number of your address. Here are some important things to remember as your adjust to the
Applying one-half to one inch of water to your
lawn every week will keep it green. Even
better, use the SIP recommendation for the week provided on page two of the San
Antonio Life every Saturday.
Even if you miss your day to water one week, watering the next week will keep your grass alive.
Watering by hand or soaker hose is not
restricted in Stage One, use these changes to water dry spots on the lawn and
your special plants.
Bermuda, buffalo, and
zoysia grass are capable of going dormant in a drought without long-term
damage. Tolerate a temporarily brown
lawn and save money on your water bill.
Well-established trees and shrubs do not need
supplemental water to survive the drought. They evolved in this or similar climates where period of droughts are
common. The plants have far reaching
root systems and quit growing in a drought.
Mulch over the roots of trees and shrubs that
have been in the ground for less than two years. They may not have developed a full root
system yet. Water them directly at the
base of the plant whenever the soil dries to one inch under the mulch. Your lawn sprinkler is usually not enough.
For old-fashioned roses, lantanas, crepe
myrtles, and other blooming xeriscape plants, a deep watering once per month
will help keep them blooming. Vitex,
esperanza, poinciana, desert willow, Mexican olive, and orchid trees thrive in
droughty weather, but even they respond to a deep watering every month. Container plants dry out very quickly in the
hot dry weather. Consider putting small
containers in larger containers to insulate them. Aluminum foil or paper also works. Drip pans can cause root rots when the
weather is cool and soggy, but in this weather they catch the water that drains
through the pot and the water is later pulled back into the container.
There is not much that thrives in the vegetable
garden in mid-summer. It is time to pull
the summer squash, tomatoes, onions, green beans, and cucumber. They do not produce much except disease and
insects in the heat so you may as well quit watering them. If you have hot pepper plants, a row of okra,
or southern peas, consider watering them by hand, rather than watering the
whole empty garden.
Water that runs off your yard into the street or
evaporates into the air does not help your lawn or plants. Water in early morning or late evening. Use sprinklers that spray large drops with a
horizontal spray and fix all leaks. The
law in San Antonio and most area
cities requires all sprinkler irrigation to be applied between 8:00 p.m., and
10:00 a.m. You may also receive a
misdemeanor citation for letting the water run from your lawn into the
Visit the SAWS website at www.saws.org for more information on the
drought restrictions. The site describes
the penalties for breaking the rules and also is the place to report water
waste or violations. The website tells
you how to request a variance for new lawn or a large property that covers more
than one address.
It is legal to use your gray water for the landscape in Texas. Gray water is defined as shower, bath, bathroom
sink, and washing machine water. If
your plumbing allows it: Use
the water on the lawn. Using
gray water reduces the need for potable water and your water bill.