Water Conservation

On August 5, 2008, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a water emergency. The board unanimously approved a resolution to increase water conservation efforts within the county to significantly reduce overall water use. The resolution applied to residents and business owners as well as parks and recreation facilities.

This action was the result of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proclamation of a statewide drought, which directed county leaders to immediately reduce water usage in hundreds of county-owned facilities. It also directed the Department of Public Works–in conjunction with the Departments of Internal Services, Parks and Recreation, and Regional Planning–to immediately submit recommendations to reduce water usage.

According to Los Angeles County Water Supervisor Don Knabe, “The water problem is not going away, and if we ignore it, it is just going to get worse.”

Many of the commission’s initial recommendations applied most specifically to residential and business water customers, although some also applied to parks and recreation facilities. For instance, the suggestions included the following:

· Shortening watering cycles. As much as 70 percent of residential water use goes to yard maintenance. Taking one minute off a 10-minute cycle decreases water usage by 10 percent.

· Properly maintaining sprinkler systems. This includes promptly replacing broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Users also must be sure to water the yard rather than the driveway or the sidewalk.

· Installing low-flow or no-flow restroom fixtures.

· Fixing leaks. Even if it’s only a drip, leaks can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water per month. Leaking toilet flappers also increase flow at water treatment plants.

· Planting native species or drought-tolerant plants. Many of the lawns and plants are not intended for the Southern California climate, meaning they require frequent watering.

· Using a broom instead of a hose for outdoor cleaning. Sweeping up leaves or grass clippings rather than using a hose not only saves water, but also reduces runoff.

· Using an adjustable hose nozzle. A hose running at full blast for five minutes uses the same amount of water as a 20-minute shower. Fine-tuning water flow to meet the needs of the task at hand can reduce the amount of water used without negative consequences.

· Eliminating runoff. This can indicate that a lawn is in need of aeration. When watering lawns, water needs to have somewhere to go besides the storm drain.

· Installing low-flow water fixtures.

Of these suggestions, the two that most apply to parks and recreation facilities are planting native species or drought-resistant plants, and using low-flow–or preferably no-flow–restroom fixtures.

Native Plants To The Rescue

Southern California is not the only location where water shortages are impacting parks and recreational facilities. Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and many other states also are taking steps to use water more responsibly, and some are even demanding serious cutbacks. One method being used to accomplish this goal is the use of native plants and vegetation. Xeriscaping proponents have shown that native plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers–that is, those species that have evolved in a specific region over time–can help conserve water resources more efficiently than non-native plants that are adapted to other climates.

One location where such water conservation measures have become necessary is Denver, where the xeriscaping movement actually began in 1981. The city’s Greenprint program has made sustainability–including more efficient use of water–a core issue. Every one of the city’s many government agencies–including parks and recreation–is required to work with the Greenprint program to ensure compliance with the city’s conservation and sustainability goals. The result has been that parks and recreation locations are now planting drought-tolerant mesquite trees, buffalo grass and colorful Texas red sage, which provide attractive landscaping without the need for frequent watering.

Using native plant species provides other benefits as well. If planned and planted correctly, native plants are more effective at reducing storm-water runoff, which helps reduce flooding. This also protects the natural quality of streams, rivers and lakes in a park area.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. The Water-Energy Connection
  2. Clean Pool Water
  3. Making Water Work
  4. Native Grasses Give Natural Touch
  5. Cascading Water
  • Columns
  • Departments