Shirl Mendonca
Lake Wildwood

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September 1, 2014
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Conservation conversations on rise at Lake Wildwood


As we go through our third consecutive dry year, there is concern that drought measures will need to be ongoing. I have talked to people throughout Lake Wildwood and it seems that everyone is looking for ways to cut back and do their part.

A number of residents have told me about putting empty buckets in their showers and sinks to catch the water that would normally go down the drain while waiting for hot water … that alone will save over 20 gallons of reusable water each and every day… enough to water many of your deck plants.

Running full loads of laundry, flushing the toilet only when necessary and rinsing dishes in a bucket of water (vs. a running faucet) are all ways residents tell me they are saving water. At least for me, running a full dishwasher uses less water than doing the dishes by hand. That was a relief!

If you are really into saving water, consider a couple of 55-gallon barrels to hold any extra house water that would otherwise go down the drain. Keep a barrel in the front and back of your house and attach a faucet near the bottom of the barrel for hose watering your garden plants. Just keep the barrel a few feet above the level of the plants so gravity can work in your favor. There are lots of DIY instructions and photos of rain catchment barrels on the Internet; the only difference is that you would dump your shower or sink bucket of water into the barrel vs. waiting for rain.

In many areas of the world, a daily shower is a luxury. When I taught English in China, the high school had 2,500 students who lived there 11 months a year …with no showers! For folks that have hot tubs or spas, limit showers by using the spa once in a while and just rinse off. That assumes, of course, that you are not sweating up a storm every day.

Another way to save water is in the yard. Adding mulch on top of fallen leaves helps to break down and loosen the soil. Your plants will retain moisture and need less water while you slow down soil erosion run-off of yard fertilizers that eventually end up in the lake. For the last four years, I have ordered a truck load of tree chips every spring and fall so I could mulch my entire property. Because the tree chips break down the oak leaves and work their way into the soil, there is no leaf build up, just a healthy looking ground cover. There won’t be leaves to rake or green waste cans to deal with … and your plants will love you for the extra moisture. Most local tree companies are happy to drop off loads of chips when they are working in your area.

It is OK to stress plants a little bit …they will gradually adjust to less water and continue to flourish. By shutting off my irrigation system and deep watering select plants on a less frequent basis, I was able to decrease my water use by 20 percent. It is more labor intensive but there is the added therapeutic benefit of being out in nature every morning. By treating the yard as five different segments and watering one segment each morning, I now notice and take care of small yard projects on the spot vs. an ever expanding “to do” list.

When getting permaculture certified a few years ago, we learned to create swales to capture rainwater on sloped property. The idea is to slow the rainwater run-off, spread it out, and then sink it into a 5-6 feet wide trench that is perpendicular to the slope of the land and about 4 feet uphill from a tree. There are four of these in my yard now and they create reservoirs of rainwater under each tree which minimizes the need for additional summer water. Maybe that is something to think about as a fall project.

Please send me your ideas for unique ways to save water and I will pass them on to the community.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at shirlmendonca@ gv.net.

In many areas of the world, a daily shower is a luxury. When I taught English in China, the high school had 2,500 students who lived there 11 months a year …with no showers!


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The Union Updated Sep 2, 2014 03:12PM Published Sep 1, 2014 10:45PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.