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Experts urges Utahns to be smart about sprinkler use as spring arrives

Posted at 9:45 PM, Apr 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-28 13:49:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The spring sun is shining on the Salt Lake Valley, warming up temperatures and signaling the winding down of winter.

That means homeowners and those with green thumbs will get out in the garden to weed, plant and water the yard.

But in firing up the sprinkler system and setting the automatic timer, Salt Lake City and the Department of Natural Resources are warning that it could end up wasting our water supply—especially after a dry winter.

“Salt Lake City did recently declare a Stage 1 Drought Advisory,” said SLC Water Conservation Manager Stephanie Duer.

That means the city isn’t in a severe drought, she said, but they are monitoring the situation.

To help not make matters worse, she suggested cutting down on the frequency of watering. The Department of Natural Resources is giving the same advice.

“We just need to really be conscious of the way that we're using our water,” said Marcie Larson, who works in the DNR Division of Water Resources.

A weekly map the DNR creates and posts online shows county-by-county how many times a week homes and businesses should turn on their sprinklers.

For April 27-May 3, they recommend watering only once during the week for many counties, including Salt Lake and Utah counties. Anyone not under that once-a-week list is advised not to water at all during that time.

“The more we're watering, the more we're using [our resources], and we’re not extending that supply for when we will really need it,” Larson said.

Maybe you are making sure you stay water-wise this spring, but what if a neighbor seems to be generously drenching their lawn?

The DNR has set up a website to report over-waterers, called the ‘Hall of Fame or Shame.’

“That information that's reported gets sent to local water providers,” Larson explained. “Then [the local water providers] have the opportunity to really go and educate [the reported neighbor] on their water use.”

Perhaps you’re worried withholding water means your grass won’t be green enough come summer. Duer shared a handy trick to figure out if your grass is thirsty, using a screwdriver.

“Take a screwdriver, and then you just push it into the ground—and where you meet resistance, is where you start hitting dry soil,” she said, demonstrating on the lawn of the city-county building.

Mark with your finger the spot on the metal shaft of the screwdriver where it meets the surface of the grass. Measure the space between the ground and the spot where the metal meets the handle.

“If your soil is dry one to two inches down, then it might be a good time to water,” she said. Anything less, and she said it’s fine.

After watering once, Duer said wait another week to ten days. If you’ve already set your sprinkler timer this spring, she said increase the gap between waterings by a day.

“Just waiting a day isn’t enough to hurt your lawn,” she said. “It will help stretch out our water supply.”

Duer said the recommended watering schedule will bump up to every 5 to 7 days in the coming weeks, every 4 to 5 days in June and every 3 days in July.

Click here for more information on conserving water, and here for information on building a water-wise landscape.