Water Wise: The need to conserve is real

We all need water, but the days of all-day sprinkling and luxurious showers may be a thing of the past — at least until fall. Water districts have put out the word that conservation is now critical. As reported on page A1, no one is crying emergency yet, but the yellow flag of caution could turn into the red flag of restriction if the tandem “highs” continue: water use and temperatures.

In past years’ water alerts, there has been an all-too-familiar scene around the community: In the heat of the day, large irrigation spigots shooting jets of water onto lawns.

Homeowners, public agencies and businesses can all do their part to conserve, as can growers, but it is also true that conservation is good for the economy by preserving as much of the resource as possible for the fruit growers.

Orchardists, as with most business owners, already employ conservation tactics because they understand the need to cut costs and protect the resource. But the reality with the Hood River County pear crop, so vital to the economy, is that this time of year the pears need water. Growers are being urged to water only when and where they need to, but the Bartletts, Anjous and other signature crops need plenty of water this time of year to maximize the fruit’s development.

No one is saying don’t use water; just don’t waste it. Short of official curtailments by water purveyors, little can be done to enforce water waste by residential or business consumers.

The same can be said of public agencies, but the difference is that the community, as taxpayers, can make clear their expectations that large water users should comply with tenets of basic conservation.

These include avoiding watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Homeowners should do the same.

Granted, many large irrigation systems are set on timers, or there could be work schedule issues involved in changing schedules for turning on spigots or moving pipes.

We urge schools, parks, the golf courses, and others who are responsible for keeping green large expanses of lawn to take reasonable steps toward watering in the cooler, shaded times of the day. There is the fiscal savings from putting down water earlier or later in the day; these can balance the impacts of having to make the changes.

As Jer Camarata of Farmers Irrigation District said, “If we can get everyone to work together as a community it’s going to be better for everyone.”


Courtesy of Oregon State University Extension Service, here are key ways to conserve water.

n Outdoor water use accounts for almost half the water used by the American home, and thus provides the greatest single opportunity for conserving.

Water early in the morning before 10 a.m. Watering in the heat of the day allows the water to evaporate and watering late in the day may promote fungus and other lawn diseases.

n Depending on the weather, it’s generally better to water once a week and provide 1 inch to 1.25 inches of water. (If it’s hot, you might have to water more often.)

n Do not mow lawns too short; taller grass requires less water. Consider letting your lawn brown out. It will come back.

n Use low-volume shower heads. They are inexpensive and can pay for themselves in water, sewer and energy savings in less than a year. For a 5-minute shower they can reduce water usage from some 40 gallons to 12 to 15 gallons.

n Flush only when needed. Do not use the toilet as a trash can. Put a water displacement device inside the toilet tank. Check for leaks.

n Do only full loads in clothes and dish washers; choose a water-saving model.

n Keep a container of cool drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet. Leave the water off when brushing your teeth or shaving.

In washing the car, rinse once, wash from bucket, rinse quickly again. Be sure to use a shut-off nozzle on your hose.

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