6 Ways To Conserve Water While Maintaining A Healthy Lawn In Portland, Oregon

Water Never Changes

Did you know that the water you drink today is the same water dinosaurs drank over a hundred million years ago? It’s true! The amount of water on Earth stays pretty constant, going through what we call a water cycle. It changes form – sometimes being ice, sometimes being liquid, and sometimes being water vapor, but the amount stays pretty much the same. Don’t let this fool you into thinking you can waste it, though; there are many reasons why you need to conserve water.

Why Water Conservation Matters

While there may be an abundance of water on the planet, not all of it is usable. Over 70% of the planet’s surface is covered by water, but most of that is oceans – salt water – which can’t be used for most of the purposes we need water for. We could desalinate the water to make it usable, but that’s an industrial process and attempting to do it on a scale that would provide an excess of water to the world would cause a lot of pollution. It also runs into the problem of distribution.

Water isn’t always in the place where it’s most needed. If you’re in the Sahara Desert, for example, you’re not likely to find an abundance of water anywhere. Transporting enough water to sustain a thriving, widespread civilization in the region is neither technologically, nor economically feasible. While the Sahara is an extreme example, even here in the United States, there are places where the water supply is limited. This is why water conservation is so important, even in places where water is abundant, such as the rainy Portland, Oregon.

Ways to Conserve Water

There are lots of ways to conserve water. Here’s a few things to consider.

1. Don’t Water Your Sidewalk

Portland Sprinklers and Landscape Lighting, a company in Portland, Oregon that handles installation of sprinklers, tells us that a common problem they see when upgrading sprinkler systems is designs that spray water where it’s not needed. It’s a pretty simple matter to control where your sprinklers spray, but a lot of people have their sprinklers spray water onto sidewalks. All that water is wasted, because it just flows into the sewer drain, or evaporates. The aim of the sprinklers is to water your lawn, not chunks of cement. So, when installing or upgrading sprinkler systems, make sure they point at the grass, not the sidewalk.

A man using a hose to water his garden
photo by Gustavo Fring

2. Use Appropriate Irrigation Methods

When you combine this with other tools, such as moisture sensors and automatic timers, you can arrange for your sprinklers to only water if the level of moisture in the soil is bellow a certain threshold. That way, you’ll never end up in an embarrassing situation where your sprinklers are running during the rain! Further upgrades to your metering can help you get more precise readings on how much water you’re using and let you know when you need to scale back.

3. Collect Rainwater

It rains a lot in Portland. Not all of that water gets absorbed by your lawn, though. Even when it splashes onto your lawn, it eventually reaches a point where the soil is saturated and the water starts to run. When the sun comes out, excess water on the surface will evaporate back into the water cycle.

Take advantage of this. You can collect a lot of excess rainwater to be used for watering your lawn or garden instead of relying on outside water sources.

sprinklers4. Water At The Right Time

Water needs time to sink into the soil. When the sun comes up, it will evaporate any water on the surface, as previously stated. The best way to avoid this is to water at times when the sun is not directly shining on your lawn. The best times to water are late in the evening, or early in the morning. That way, the water has time to get into the soil before the sun comes up. You’ll be able to see better results while using less water.

5. Plant A Low Water Use Lawn

One type of lanscaping that’s starting to catch on is xeriscaping. While this is a pretty extreme form of landscaping for conserving water, the basic ideas are still good overall. By planting your yard with native plants, or plants with water needs suitable to the normal amount of water you get in your area, you can reduce the amount of watering you need to do by a lot. Combined with soil improvement, mulching, and strategic plant grouping, it’s possible to minimize the amount of watering you need to do to almost zero, letting you get by on nothing more than the natural seasonal rain with just a bit of supplemental watering for specific cases. That’s really good water conservation!

a leaking garen faucet wasting water6. Stop Leaks

Leaks are a massive waste of water. If your sprinkler system has a leak, it will dump water whether your system is on or not. Small leaks might not have any visible effect at the moment, but even a system leaking an ounce of water every hour adds up to 24 hours of wasted water every day. Multiple that by 365 and it adds up to many gallons a year wasted. You can avoid this by blowing-out and winterizing your sprinkler system every year when the winter comes. Removing the water from your sprinkler system will ensure that any sudden cold snaps won’t cause it to freeze, expand, and burst the pipes.

Conserve Water Where You Can

It’s important to conserve water. It may seem like there’s enough to go around, but there’s less usable water than you’d think, and not every place has it in equal amounts. Water conservation helps us solve the problems of droughts around the US by having more water to share with places that have less. Not only that, even though it might rain a lot here, that doesn’t mean we can’t have water shortages, such as when restrictions had to be put in place back in 1992.

It’s also a big money saver for you, personally, as less water used means less money spent on that water bill. A few simple tricks can help you make the most of the water you use, while proper planning in your landscaping can significantly reduce the water you need to use in the first place.

Water conservation is everybody’s responsibility, so let’s all do our best at it! For more information, check out Portland’s water conservation plan.