As Western Slope residents prepare to keep cool during the predicted triple-digit temperatures this July, water providers like Ute Water are gearing up for their "peak month". July has historically been the month in which District customers use the most water compared to other months throughout the year. Here at Ute Water, July is all about trying to keep up with our customer's water usage.
The Mesa County Commissioners formally proclaimed July as Smart Irrigation Month on Monday, July 6th. Smart Irrigation Month is a public awareness campaign created by the Irrigation Association to promote efficient water use. Focused on July, in response to the peak demand for outdoor water use, the campaign highlights simple practices and innovative technologies to:
Minimize over watering while keeping landscapes and crops beautiful and healthy
Apply water and nutrient inputs more precisely for improved results with no waste
Minimize runoff and topsoil erosion
Save money on utility bills
Help protect community water supplies for today and the future
Ute Water will be joined by Munro Companies Inc., City of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District, CSU Extension, Drought Response Information Project (DRIP) Grand Valley Water Users’ Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation, Town of Palisade, and Mesa County as we increase our efforts to raise awareness of smart irrigation technology and proper watering practices specific to our semi-arid climate. Mesa County is currently experiencing a severe drought, therefore, the importance of water conservation must be a priority for all community members and agencies affiliated with the water industry.
One of the unique aspects of the Western Slope is that a majority of our community benefits from a dual water system, which means that most homes have separate water systems for their treated, domestic water and their untreated, irrigation water. A large percentage of Mesa County residents have their irrigation water provided by a different water provider than their domestic water. This helps keep customer's costs down when it comes to watering outdoors since most of our customers aren't using treated water outdoors. However, all water is a finite resource and our community must work to conserve water regardless of if it is domestic or irrigation water.
Smart irrigation is much more than just technology-driven watering systems. It involves planting the right selection of native plants; investing in a efficient irrigation system; maintaining that system; and watering wisely.
Landscape to suit your lot. Choose grass or plants that have low water requirements and will thrive in your local climate. Lists of plants native to the Western Slope can be found at dripinfo.com or tra.extension.colostate.edu/. Consider your lot’s sun and shade, dry and damp areas, plant size, and how you plan to use each section of your yard.
Keep soil healthy. Aerating your lawn and around trees at least once a year helps improve water penetration. When planting, turn and cultivate the soil and add compost or fertilizer to improve moisture retention and grow healthier plants that need less water.
Mulch well around plants, bushes and trees. Using 2 to 4 inches of mulch reduces evaporation, moderates spikes and lows in soil temperatures, improves water penetration and helps control weeds that compete for water.
Investing in an irrigation system
Use components that provide flexibility. Different plants have different watering needs, and these needs may change over time. Your system should allow you to apply the right amount of water for each type of plant by the most effective method.
Install excess capacity. Irrigation zones are areas that are watered by the same irrigation valve and plumbing. Installing extra connections now makes it easier and less expensive to expand your irrigation system later.
Think smart. Include “smart” controls that automatically adjust watering based on rain, soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.
Get in the zone. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure, and soil in that section. Different zones will almost always need different watering schedules.
Don’t send water down the drain. Set sprinklers to water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or buildings.
Water at the best time & only when needed. Watering during the heat of the day may cause losses of up to 30 percent due to evaporation. Prevent water loss by watering when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool — typically between the evening and early morning. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.
Follow the suggested watering schedule for the Western Slope. The Drought Response Information Project has partnered with CSU Extension to develop a suggested outdoor watering schedule specific to the Western Slope climate and conditions. Residents are encouraged to water weekly in cycles for best results and to help their plants acclimate, increasing their survival rate. The suggested water schedule can be found at dripinfo.com.
Maintaining and upgrading your system
Adjust sprinkler heads. Remove or correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Adjust sprinkler head positions and spray patterns to avoid watering sidewalks or structures and to provide necessary clearance over growing plants.
Check the pressure. Pressure can change over time and negatively affect system efficiency.
Inspect the system for leaks. Leaks are a huge water waster. A good contractor can perform regular maintenance checks for leaks, broken or clogged spray heads, and other problems. Ask them to show you common problems to watch for between visits.
Install a rain shutoff switch. These inexpensive sensors can be retrofitted to almost any system and help compensate for natural rainfall by turning off your system in rainy weather.