GAINESVILLE — With summer’s heat still simmering in Florida and in many parts of the United States, people may be tempted to water their lawns and take more showers.
Beth Robertson, water conservation specialist for UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, is one of many UF/IFAS Extension experts statewide who can help you with cost-saving tips on water use.
1. Only water when your grass needs it. Overwatering can cause as many issues as not watering often enough. There are three main symptoms of water stress in grass: the leaves will turn a blue-green color relative to their original shade, walking on the grass will leave footprints that stay, and the leaf blades will fold in half. When you do water, irrigate according to the watering restrictions for your municipality. For example, you can check with the Southwest Florida Water Management District for restrictions in that area of the state.
2. Limit lawn irrigation to half to three-quarters of an inch of water at a time. When you water your lawn, you are trying to reach the roots, where they can absorb it. Most roots are in the top 12 inches of soil. Depending on site conditions, excess water will continue to percolate through the soil past the roots, pond, or run off to another location.
3. Make sure your rain sensor works. Did you know that all automatic irrigation systems in Florida are required to have a functional moisture sensor? The most common models use cork disks that expand when it rains. To test these, manually turn on the sprinklers and then press the button on top of the sensor. If the water shuts off, it’s working properly. If not, check the connection and controller settings. If no problem is found, the sensor likely needs to be replaced.
4. Update your toilet to a low-flow model. If you live in a home built before 1994, make sure your toilet has been replaced. A rule that took effect in 1994 requires all toilets to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to the previous average of 3.5. By replacing the old toilet, you can likely save two or more gallons for every time you flush. Check with your utility company to see if rebates are available to help you replace old toilets.
5. Use your dishwasher efficiently. Water Star-certified dishwashers use no more than 3.5 gallons of water per cycle. It would be nearly impossible to hand wash your dishes with that little water and still get your dishes clean. In addition, you don’t need to pre-wash your dishes. Scrape excess food into the garbage or compost. Also, be sure to fill the dishwasher completely before starting it. If you don’t have a dishwasher, the two-basin method is the recommended way to save water; one half of the sink is for soaking and washing while the other is for rinsing.
6. Take shorter showers. Did you know the standard shower uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute? The average shower length is between 7 and 8 minutes, adding up to about 20 gallons of water. You could cut that down to 5 minutes.
7. Get a low-flow shower head. install a low-flow shower head, some which can save 1 gallon per minute. A 5-minute shower with a 1.5 gallon-per-minute shower head would save around ten gallons of water.