Energy Adviser: It’s crucial to use water resources wisely

After what felt like months of delay, summer weather showed up in Clark County practically overnight.

With the weather drying out, Clark County residents are turning on the spigot for their irrigation needs.

Although heavy spring storms built a strong snowpack, it’s important to use water wisely to preserve our reservoirs, waterways and local aquifer.

Whether we’re washing the car, raising a garden or running the dishwasher, water is a resource we all depend on. It might not seem like a big deal to leave the hose on a little longer than usual or ignore the plugged sprinkler, but those small choices add up to a staggering amount of consumption when considered collectively over the entire county.

Making a few small changes in the yard this summer will not only conserve the local water supply, it’ll save you money without sacrificing aesthetics or convenience — it might even improve them.

“Using less water outdoors is actually a pretty easy thing to do; Plus, the lower utility bills are a great perk,” said Oscar Maciel, water operations manager of Clark Public Utilities. “There are many products on the market that are affordable, easy to use, and will start conserving water right away.”

Property irrigation — think watering the lawn and garden — makes up a significant portion of the average household’s water consumption, especially in the summer. Most laws only require an inch of water per week. It’s best to water only in the early morning or evening when cooler temperatures reduce evaporation.

Smart homeowners also know how much water their plants require and irrigate accordingly. It doesn’t do your garden or your budget any good to water everything the same when different plants may have significantly different needs.

Many homeowners with automatic sprinkler systems falsely believe their systems are built as much for efficiency as convenience. But, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes with automatic irrigation systems can use 50 percent more water outdoors.

The agency also says much of that water is wasted by overwatering. How often have you driven past a home or business and seen the sprinklers running during a downpour?

If you’re not sure how much of your system uses, consider investing in a WaterSense-labeled controller. Those act like a thermostat for the lawn and use local weather data to determine when and how much to water. The EPA claims those systems can reduce water use by around 15 percent.

Like any other part of the home, irrigation systems are prone to equipment failures and fatigue and require occasional inspection and upkeep for peak performance. Broken or leaking sprinkler heads can waste water by the gallons and burn through your dollars. A working backflow device is critical. If you see them leaking, fix them or call a professional.

There are many irrigation businesses out there, but look for those that are WaterSense certified. They are trained to audit, install and maintain systems so they make the most of every drop.

If you’re an active gardener without an automatic irrigation system, consider investing in a drip system. They lose very little water to runoff or evaporation compared to a sprinkler system. Plus, they’re easy to install and great for targeting specific plants.

It’s hard to beat watering the old-fashioned way. Watering by hand puts you in total control of how much water your lawn and landscaping receive. Plus, water efficient and environmentally friendly attachments are widely available online and at home and garden stores.

For more water conservation tips, visit our website or call our water utility at 360-992-8022.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, PO Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.

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