Here Comes the Sun: Water Conservation Strategies for the Summer
Summer is fast approaching and outdoor water use will be going up as always. As a result, peak demands will be exacerbated and critical potable water supplies will be stressed. Nationally, the average American family uses 30 percent of their total water use outdoors but this can skyrocket to nearly 70% during the summer! This spike is almost entirely related to an increase in lawn and landscape watering and it is estimated that almost half of this outdoor water use is wasted through evaporation, wind, or runoff. For water utilities and suppliers, maintaining water supplies in the face of this increased demand during summer months is a great and important challenge: for both human health and our environment on which we depend.
There are many conservation strategies that water utilities can implement to drive outdoor usage down in anticipation of these upcoming hot summer months. Among the strategies that we at AIQUEOUS have found to be the most cost-effective, there is a variety: from those that may be more prescriptive (i.e. outdoor watering schedules) to strategies that are prescriptive and customer facing (i.e. smart irrigation controllers). The following list represents a brief summary of what our experience has shown to be some of the top water conservation strategies for water utilities during the summer months:
(1) Outdoor Watering Schedules
Description: Mandatory, year-round restrictions on the number of days water customers are allowed to water their lawn, landscaping, and gardens.
Why: Savings potential of up to 22%. A higher savings potential is associated with more robust education and enforcement efforts.
Resource: Texas Living Waters Project.
(2) Irrigation Check-ups
Description: Establish a program to offer assessments of in-ground irrigation systems in order to ensure equipment is working properly and identify opportunities to increase water efficiency.
Why: Irrigation systems are a huge driver of outdoor water use (especially compared to hose-end sprinklers) and homeowners are often unaware of common inefficiencies.
(3) Smart Irrigation Controllers
Description: Offer rebates for smart irrigation controllers. These controllers work by adjusting irrigation schedules according to certain environmental factors (e.g., local weather conditions, current and historic evapotranspiration, soil moisture, etc.). Unlike a pre-set watering schedule, smart irrigation technology determines an optimal frequency, duration, and soak time for each irrigation zone depending on sprinkler type, plant type, and soil type.
Why: Smart irrigation controllers can achieve significant water savings, especially for high water users. They can also be employed as a strategy for reducing peak water demand.
Resource: Smart Irrigation Controller Technology
(4) Tools for Notifying Customers of Recommended Watering Needs
Description: Provide customers with recommendations on weekly outdoor watering needs based on local weather conditions – offer online portal to access information and/or send weekly newsletters.
Why: Overwatering is common: by educating and engaging customers they can become more aware of the appropriate levels and timing for their lawns and landscaping.
Resource: Texas A&M Water My Yard Program