Heroes in a time of drought
May 30 2009 | Know Your H20,
Brook Sarson, a San Diego resident, is doing her part to decrease human impact on Earth's ever-decreasing water supply. Sarson has a 1,300 gallon rainwater tank in her backyard for her family's water needs and uses greywater from her laundry machine and shower to hydrate her enviable backyard garden. Sarson reports that she uses about twenty gallons a day per family member from her rainwater tank and since using the tank her water bills have been cut in half. In addition to cutting down on water usage and saving money, Sarson's garden has produced ten times more food since beginning her water-harvesting endeavors. She claims that not only is her backyard for her and her children, it is also a symbol of how things should be. For information on Brooke Sarson's water harvesting company, H2OME, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619.964.4838
Tom Warner, a Talmadge resident, let his green lawn die when the unending drought and ever-increasing water bills forced him to stop watering grass. He states that, "unless you have a dog or children, you don't necessarily need a lawn". That is why Warner turned to rockscapes. He purchased Mediterranean and tropical drought-tolerant plants for $300 and collected rocks from his friend's yard for free and, voila, a low-hassle, low-cost, guilt-free front yard. Warner will turn off his irrigation from winter to spring. Then, Dockery suggests watering deep and allowing soil to dry up before the next sprinkling. Roots learn to search out water below the surface, he explains.
“Our kind of feeling about plants is push them a little bit,” agreed Marty Eberhardt, executive director of the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College. “Try the low end and then give it a little bit more water instead of giving it so much everyday.” Eberhardt says low-flow toilet rebates have been around for years, but there’s been little emphasis on outdoor landscape - which consumes 50 to 70 percent of San Diego’s dwindling and largely imported water supply.
Warner leaves us with a personal mantra, "Where there is a rock, you don't have to water".
"It's the best move I've ever made," says Joe Randazzo of investing in AstroTurf to replace his natural-grass front lawn. Tired of the maintenance of a grass lawn and plagued by increasing water bills from watering, Randazzo decided to switch to the polyethelene synthetic grass. According to him, people don't even know the grass is synthetic! By installing the AstroTurf and landscaping simply with water-wise planters, Randazzo has cut costs by saying goodbye to gas for the lawnmower, the entire sprinkler system, fertilizer, and half of the water bill. Now, instead of caring for the lawn, his formerly least favorite chore, he now only waters the planters by hand every couple of weeks.
There are certain drawbacks to having a synthetic front lawn, though. First of all, the artificial grass is made using petroleum, which is a finite resource like water. Also, the instillation of a artificial lawn can be quite pricey, costing a homeowner up to $6,000 for a 20x30 yard. Furthermore, barbecues and other gas-operated machinery should be steered clear of. Lastly, the grass can get very hot so you must keep that in mind if you picture children playing on the lawn.
Randazzo doesn't play on his front lawn, though, and claims that the high cost of the lawn will pay for itself in the way of no water bills or maintenance fees. Randazzo points out that he certainly doesn't want to run out of water because, "without water, we run out of everything". This mentality should be shared by all of us on Earth because of the effects of wasteful water practices.
Like an child ready to play, Ken Muehleman is eager to share the area nearest to his heart: a 400-square-foot organic vegetable garden, smack alongside busy Catalina Boulevard. The electrical engineer harvests a bounty of greens from oregano to arugala, snow peas to swiss chard. “Gardening is the prime motivator,” said Ken gesturing to the crop of spring vegetables. “But the challenge is to do it in the most efficient way, to get the most while not wasting water.”
Here’s how he does it: soaker hoses and drip irrigation concentrate moisture where it’s needed most, laying newspaper and wood chips over the dirt reduces evaporation, and vetch groundcover enriches soil and saves water. Conserving, composting, even his worm bed are all part of being a global citizen, Ken figures, especially in a place that is warming and drying.
“They talk about people watering only two or three times a week. I find that very hard to take,” Ken gestures to his heart as he talks of the county mandates. “We like to see if we can water once a week and grow decent vegetables.”