With many parts of the country experiencing one of the driest weather periods since records have been maintained, it's important for everyone to understand and practice good water management, regardless of the source of their water supply.
Whether your water comes from a surface supply (lakes or rivers) or ground water (public or private wells), it's important to practice good water management. Over a long period of time, lack of rain will result in drought conditions that can affect public and private water systems. When municipalities instituted watering restrictions, it's to ensure there will be an adequate water supply to meet essential needs.
Households served by private wells also should keep in mind good water management practices. A drought's impact on a private well depends a lot on the geology of the area, number of private wells in the area and the age of the well. Nevertheless, practicing water management may prevent the need for a service call to adjust for a drop in the water table.
Awareness is the first step in being “water conscious,” states Larry Lyons, licensed Illinois water well contractor and president of the Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals (IAGP). “We need to remember that even though water maybe a renewable resource, the renewing process, known as the hydrological cycle, is not an overnight process and a lot depends on soil characteristics. The process can vary from months to hundreds years. Since many factors contribute to water recharge, we shouldn't be wasteful.”
Watering lawns and gardens is a frequent concern in dry periods and keeping in mind a few things will help keep plants alive while being conscientious of water usage. Watering during the heat of the day actually can cause plants to burn and also is highly inefficient, as up to 90 percent of the water can be lost through evaporation.
IAGP recommends the following best practices and encourages everyone to get into the habit of better water management:
Outside the home:
- Water only during the coolest part of the day - it's less windy and reduces evaporation.
- Water the lawn only when needed; if grass springs back after walking on it, it doesn't need watering.
- Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden and not the sidewalk.
- Soaker hoses and trickle irrigation systems can reduce water use by 20 percent to 50 percent.
- Set lawn mower blades higher to increase natural ground shade and water retention in the soil.
- Mulch around shrubs and garden plants will reduce evaporation and cut down on weeds.
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
- Use a hose with an automatic shot-off nozzle when washing cars, lawn furniture, pets, etc. When not in use, don't let the hose flow freely.
Inside the home:
- Don't let the faucet continuously run while washing dishes - use a dishpan to hold rise water.
- Use a glass for rinse water when brushing teeth instead of letting the faucet run. Shave the same way.
- Take short showers instead of baths and consider bathing small children together.
- Don't use the toilet as a trash can.
- Refrigerate a bottle of water instead of letting a faucet flow until the water runs cold.
- Run washing machines and dishwashers only with full loads.
Water management should be practiced at all times and not just during a drought. Water management also should include protecting ground water and surface water against contamination.