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Water Department Press Release

The City of San Diego Letterhead

July 31, 2002

CONTACT: Christianne Penunuri
(619) 934-4684

Soaking Up Good Outdoor Water-Use Behaviors
Maintaining a Healthy, Vibrant Landscape Can Be Water-Wise
By Luis Generoso, City of San Diego Water Department

SAN DIEGO - We've all seen it. Those awful yellow ? sometimes brown ? patches on the lawn indicating the area isn't getting enough water. Even worse is the lawn that is lush and green, but a swamp underneath. Finding the appropriate amount and way to water lawns and landscaping can sometimes be an effort in trial and error. Conserving water and maintaining a healthy landscape becomes a challenge during the summer months, but developing a water-efficient irrigation system and schedule now will make your lawn and landscaping much easier to maintain year-round.

There are many factors in creating a water-efficient irrigation schedule that suits the needs of the landscape. Getting familiar with the landscape and irrigation system not only helps diagnose potential problems, but it helps to foster good water-use behaviors.

"Plants need care," said Dan Carney, Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego's Water Department. "Healthy landscaping is about understanding the needs of your plants."

Soil type is one of the most important aspects of the landscape governing how much water should be used. Different types of soils have different characteristics. For instance, sandy soils-- more common in coastal areas--easily absorb large amounts of water and drain water quickly. Loam, a mixture of sand, organic material, and clay absorbs water less quickly than sand, but water is retained in the root-zone longer. Clay is dense and does not absorb water quickly which means that short and repeated watering is needed to keep the root-zone well watered. Water-use is dictated by the plant and the application of that water is based on the ability of the soil to absorb.

Frequent, light watering encourages shallow root growth that can result in an unstable and unhealthy plant that is less drought-resistant and more prone to damage during winter months. Such shallow watering only settles dust and promotes weed growth, it does not penetrate deep into the roots where water is needed. On the other hand, over-watering can damage the root system by cutting off the oxygen supply in the soil and drowning aerobic organisms that maintains a soil texture suitable for plant growth. Instead, try watering deeply less days a week to help encourage and strengthen deeper root growth which enables the plant to survive in dry conditions.

The most efficient way to properly water landscaping is to create irrigation zones. To do this, design the irrigation system based upon the application rate of the fixture and the water needs of the landscape. For example, spray sprinklers and drip systems have different water pressures and coverage areas, and each is best suited to two different types of landscaping. By grouping irrigation fixtures appropriate to the plant's water needs, over-watering and under-watering can be minimized.

Irrigation scheduling also affects the development of good outdoor water-use behaviors. Watering early in the morning or after the sun sets reduces evaporation. It also decreases fungus problems and reduces the sun's magnification on leaves, thus reducing the occurrence of leaf-burn. Irrigate only if needed; if the blades of grass easily bounce back after being stepped on, there is no need to irrigate. For more information on properly irrigating your landscaping, visit the Landscape Watering Calculator at www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation. The calculator allows users to estimate the correct amount of water to apply to the landscape by creating a customized watering schedule.

The Water Conservation Program reduces water demand through promoting or providing incentives for the installation of hardware that provides permanent water savings, and by providing services and information to help San Diegans make better decisions about water use. For more information about Water Conservation, visit www.sandiego.gov/water or call 619.515.3500.

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