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Are you ready for the drought?

Restrictions or no, be water-wise this summer in the SCV

Posted: May 22, 2009 2:53 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Pssst. Hey buddy, Come close, listen up and keep this to yourself. I’ve found the secret to water conservation in the yard. It’s simple.

Just let your grass grow really, really long.

That’s all there is to it. I’ve found that when the grass in your front lawn is about six inches tall, it tends to retain moisture much better and you don’t have to water it as often. Seriously. And, man, I also save on lawnmower-gas and put less pollution into the air — and get more weekends off from yard work. It’s a win-win deal. Oh, and my homeowners association? Well, sure I get letters, but I decry those with the explanation that I am doing my part for the benefit of us all —  conserving water in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Here today, but...
It’s no secret California is experiencing a drought. According to the California Department of Water Resources, the state is in its third drought year and currently experiencing “severe” drought conditions. And, thus, the DWR indicates water conservation is critically important.

However, before you start getting thirsty, realize that mandatory water-use restrictions in the SCV aren’t on the immediate horizon.

According to Tom Hawes, the Water Conservation Program coordinator for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, “The Santa Clarita Valley is pretty well placed as far as water resources go. But, the need for water conservation is now, before it is mandated. By conserving water today, we don’t have to go into our reserves.”

So, OK, how do you do your part to conserve water — you know, aside from letting your grass grow ugly?

Well, The CLWA offers a list of Water Conservation Tip on its Web site (, which provide a wealth of information on just what you can do. And Hawes offered his own emphasis on several of those tips.

Save water indoors
Leaks: Traveling down the list of tips from the Web site, we come first to how to save water inside your home, and first on the list there are tips relating to pipes and hardware. “Leaks are the first thing to fix,” Hawes said. “That’s water used that people don’t know about.”

He went on to say that, in a community of 40,000 to 50,000 homes, the total water wasted by these leaks “is substantial.”

“The most common leak is the toilet,” Hawes added. But then, you knew that, right?

Shower heads: “How’s your shower head?” Hawes asked. “Do you hate it?” Well, if you do, you can get a new one, free. “All the water retailers in the valley have low-flow shower heads available for free,” he said.

And, while Hawes stopped short of recommending a specific shower time period, he noted that regular-flow shower heads use about five gallons of water per minute and low-flow heads only two and a half gallons per minute. However long you normally stay in the shower, “Your normal shower would use one-half the water with a low-flow head.”

Dishwasher: The tips list recommends that you only use your automatic dishwasher with full loads. Hawes emphasized this. “A dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing for a large load of dishes. It’s been proven again and again.”

Save water outdoors
Irrigation: Leaks can also be a problem outside your home, and Hawes said, “The second most common leak is irrigation — like a sprinkler head that always has water coming out.”

Beyond that accidental water waste, the amount of water you consciously use to keep your landscaping green can be cut back.  
“Typically, outdoor watering is 70 percent of (home) water use in the summer,” Hawes said.

And he offered his advice on how to cut back on this water use. “If you need to water more than 10 minutes in a session, three days a week, you could probably use a home water use survey.” Such a survey helps you water your landscaping more efficiently, and Hawes noted that local water agencies can help you with such a survey.

When it comes to sprinkler overspray and the subsequent runoff, Hawes explained that the cause is usually “too much water, too soon.

If you are watering in one, 10-minute session now, make it two, five-minute sessions.” That allows the water to soak in gradually instead of running off.

When it comes to WHEN you should water, “Early morning hours, when there is no wind, are best,” Hawes said.

Mulch: “Mulching is terrific for water conservation,” Hawes said. The mulch helps hold moisture in the soil. “Use medium to large-sized mulch. You don’t want it to blow away in the Santa Clarita winds.”

Drought tolerant plants: Hawes recommended the use of drought-tolerant plants in your yard and he noted that the CLWA’s Conservatory Garden is a great place to learn about which plants grow well in the SCV.

No-hose: Hawes felt that everyone should know by now that hosing down driveways wastes tremendous amounts of water, so he offered no further comment on it. But he did recommended those who wash their cars at home use shut-off nozzles on their hoses. That way the water isn’t running into the gutter while you soap up your car.

To sum up, Hawes said that, while “there are no water cops” now, we should all be doing what we can to conserve water. “Every gallon we save now will help us out toward next year, when mandatory conservation could be a real possibility,” he explained.

Oh, and referring back to letting your lawn grow long to conserve water, the CLWA’s tips recommend you raise your lawnmower blades to at least three inches. That’s because a lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds in soil moisture better than a closely-clipped lawn. And this writer has proven that through experience. However, my six-inch-tall grass probably takes this concept too far. Just ask my neighbors. For more information visit



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