Despite the large amounts of rain we’ve been getting in the metro lately, cities continue to keep a close eye on their water supply.
Each year cities, like Plymouth, ask residents to curb water usage during peak months in order to prevent a shortage.
"The water resource can simply run out," says Plymouth utilities superintendent Scott Newberger. "It’s not an infinite resource, so we need to try and conserve as much as we can."
In 2007, the lack of rain threatened the water levels of several northwest suburbs.
"There was a lot of costs incurred to keep up the supply of water," says Newberger. "There were a lot of pump motors that burnt out that year because they were just running 24/7."
Currently, there is no threat of a water shortage, but Plymouth public works needs your help to keep it that way. On average, in the winter, the city of Plymouth uses about eight and a half million gallons of water per day. Newberger says, in the summer, that number can double or triple.
The journey to water conservation begins with a single stem. Preferably one that’s drought tolerant.
"Typically [drought tolerant] means that the plant material has an ability to develop a long taproot," says Heidi Heiland of Heidi’s Lifestyle Gardens. "When the topsoil dries out, it still is moist down below and that plant will support itself because it’s not simply on the surface."
Heiland says perennials, woody plants, shrubs or herbaceous plants, typically don’t take a ton of water. Most annuals do like a lot of water, except ones that self-seed, like the moss rose.
Heiland says once you've chosen your plants, watch where you put them. She says don't put moisture loving plants near drought tolerant plants. You’ll end up watering plants that don't need that much water.
And consider using mulch in your garden. Heiland says mulch keeps the ground cool and moist and helps with water retention.
She says when you do water, it’s more important to irrigate deeply every few days than it is to irrigate just a little bit each day. Shallow watering creates shallow roots. Again, plants that have long roots don’t need as much watering.
"It’s much better to water thoroughly and completely saturate the soils and then let it dry out for four or five days, a week, depending on how much wind there is or how hot it is or where the garden’s location is," says Heiland.
Scott Newberger says the city is most concerned with water use for the purpose of lawn maintenance.
According to a city brochure, one way to conserve water while keeping your yard healthy is to raise your lawn mower blade to a height of at least three inches. Longer grass shields the roots from heat stress and encourages root growth.
Aerate your lawn. Pockets of non-compacted soil will allow water and oxygen to move to the roots.
The Plymouth Public Works Department says to make sure your sprinkler system works correctly, waters the right areas and it doesn't run when it's raining.
The city enforces an odd/even lawn watering schedule and midday sprinkling ban from May 1 through September 30.
While drought may be the farthest thing from people’s minds after last weekend’s storms, Scott Newberger says the city must always prepare for the worst to make sure it doesn’t reach that point.
"We don’t want to get to where there's a shortage. We want to conserve as much as we can and avoid that."
May 29, 2012