Express-News Weekly Article
Saturday, May 6. 2006
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
“Watering Once Per Week”
The rains we had last week and a week before that have been welcome.
Most of us were able to avoid irrigating our lawns during
that period. Research
San Antonio in the late 90’s as part of the Seasonal
Irrigation Program (SIP) proved that most San Antonio lawns will stay healthy and green with watering
once per week. They will
not look as good, but most lawns will survive with irrigation
every two weeks. It is no coincidence that the one week and two
week watering schedule are the basis of the drought restrictions
that San Antonio and most other communities in the area impose
when the Aquifer level falls.
Stage one is declared when the Aquifer level measured
at the J-17 well falls to 650 feet.
At 640 feet, Stage II is imposed.
You can still irrigate once/week based on address, but
the hours that watering is allowed are reduced.
Stage III goes into effect when the Aquifer falls to
630 feet. Stage III is
when we are limited to lawn watering every two weeks –
enough to keep the lawn alive, but it will not necessarily look
great unless you have deep soil and shade.
In the summer time one-half
of our water use is on the lawn.
Stage I of the restrictions is designed to reduce water
use on the lawn by one-third.
The second week restrictions are expected to reduce water
use on the lawn by another third. Homeowners that have zoysia, buffalo or Bermuda
grass can quit irrigating all together and let their lawn go
dormant. The lawn grass
perks up again when the rains start without any permanent damage. Over half of the people in San Antonio do not water their lawn at all, so those of
us who do have special responsibility to water efficiently. Unless we receive some big time rains before
then, it is expected that we will be in drought restrictions
by about May 27, 2006.
Even when the Edwards Aquifer
is relatively high and we are not in drought restrictions, there
are several rules to follow that are designed to reduce water
waste. Irrigation is only allowed between 8:00 p.m.
– 10:00 a.m., because that is when evaporation and wind
are at their lowest.
The second rule to consider
is that your water must stay on the lawn. Water running down the road is wasted water.
In San Antonio, and most communities in our area, violation
of either rule is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine
of $50 - $250 for the first violation.
In most cases, however, SAWS’ Conservation Enforcement
Officers do not give a citation on the first offense.
Businesses and homeowners are notified that a water waste
violation has been reported and the individual is asked to change
the behavior so the violation will not occur again. In situations where the violation continues,
the Conservation Enforcement Officers put the address on the
Water Waster list. If
the behavior is witnessed again by the Officer or another SAWS
Conservation official, the ticket is written.
Other ways to save water
on your landscape include:
Use a sprinkler that sprays large drops of water
on a horizontal plane rather than up into the air. Some sprinklers are only 50% efficient.
Only water when your lawn is dry enough to see
it change color slightly and then apply enough water to fill
the soil reservoir (usually ¾ inch).
Take advantage of the SIP recommendation.
Visit SAWS website at saws.org and click to Conservation
to sign up to receive a free personalized e-mail or phone message
telling you how much water your lawn needs. The recommendation is based on your lawn grass
type and shade conditions. You
do not need to be a SAWS customer to participate.