Published on 08/05/03

Stay in water conservation mode, despite recent rains

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

The drought may have broken in the state, but a University of Georgia expert urges Georgians not to switch out of water conservation mode.

"We've had a lot of rain and many of our reservoirs are filled," said Clint Waltz, an Extension Service specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "But the water problems we face in Georgia are every bit as much a people and population problem as they are a drought problem.

Say on odd, even cycle

Most Georgians have become accustomed to following an odd or even day schedule for watering their lawns. Waltz says you should continue to keep on those schedules whether they are required by your local government or not.

"However, just because it's your day to water, doesn't mean you have to," Waltz said. "Your grass doesn't know what day it is, so if it doesn't need water, wait another day or two."

And most turfgrasses only need an inch of water per week, Waltz said. Some can survive on less.

Aside from keeping a watering schedule, he has several recommendations for saving water while maintaining your landscape:

Follow these tips

* If you need to fertilize, select a type of fertilizer with less nitrogen.

"To save water, slack off on fertilization so that you aren't increasing plant top growth," Waltz said. "You don't need to stimulate your grass to grow when you're trying to save water."

* Increase your mower height. In general, the lower your mowing height, the shallower your root system, Waltz said.

"You want deeper roots with more soil volume to explore for water and nutrients," he said.

* Promote deeper plant roots by watering less often than normal.

"Increase the duration between your irrigation sessions," said Waltz. "This way you condition your grass to search deeper for water."

* Think ahead to the future.

"We're out of the drought now, but no one knows for how long," he said. "You have to keep pre-conditioning your lawn for the next drought and conserving water both for the short and long term."

Despite the recent abundance of rain water, Waltz says to remember water is still a precious resource.

"You should keep the concept of saving water because it's a precious, precious resource," he said. "We need to insure that there's enough of it around in both wet and dry seasons."

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.