On any given day, only about 3% of tap water in Springfield is used for drinking. The rest is used for landscaping, bathing, household chores, and recreation, and other activities. Luckily, saving water is more a matter of habit than high-tech gadgets. Here are some tips to get you started.
Lawns and gardens account for the vast majority of summertime water use. Keep your bill under control by following these easy tips:
- Use the Green Grass Gauge
The best way to determine your sprinkler system output is to use a Green Grass Gauge. You may also use a tuna can and a ruler to conduct the following test:
Place the Green Grass Gauge in an area of the lawn where it receives a typical amount of water.
Move the gauge around the lawn area between each watering cycle to help identify dry spots.
Do not place it under trees, shrubs, or other plantings.
If you want to water twice a week, use the 2-day a week watering recommendation, If you want to water 3 times a week, use the 3-day a week watering recommendation.
Run the sprinklers until the Green Grass Gauge is filled to the weekly watering recommendation on the Eugene Water & Electric Board website.
- Emptying the gauge between each watering cycle will help you know if you are watering the recommended amount each time the sprinkler is run.
Regional Water Conservation Partnership
Since the mid-1980s, the Rainbow Water District, Springfield Utility Board (SUB), and Eugene Water & Electric Board have co-published water quality brochures educating all water customers in the region about what they can do to protect their water quality through cross-connection control.
The three utilities are continuing this customer communication partnership by co-distributing the Green Grass Gauge to provide customers with a tool to help them use water wisely.
- Water your lawn at the best times. Watering when water demand is high (before work in the morning or in the early evening) can reduce sprinkler system performance due to lower water pressure, resulting in poorly distributed water across your landscape. Set your sprinkler times to the “green zones” of best performance times (9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) or good performance times (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
- Check automated sprinkler systems to make sure they’re not overwatering or watering unwanted areas. Also, check to make sure the system is not leaking and wasting water. If you see soggy areas along buried irrigation lines or near sprinkler heads, you may have a problem.
- Position your sprinklers to avoid watering sidewalks, driveways, and other paved areas.
- Set your lawnmower blades one notch higher since longer grass means less evaporation. In very dry weather, leave the grass clippings in your yard to retain moisture and protect your grass from the heat.
- Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets, fixtures, and couplings. A faucet leaking one drop of water per second wastes 60 gallons of water per week, or almost 200 gallons in a month.
Along with the good outdoor watering and maintenance habits, another way to keep summertime water bills under control is to use native and drought-tolerant plants in your landscaping. Called xeriscaping (pronounced “zeriscaping”), this practice can help you save time and money in the garden. Here are some basic xeriscaping principles:
- Replace water-intensive grass with bark or drought-resistant grass. Grasses that require little water include Zoysia, Maiden Grass, Indian Grass, Autumn Moor Grass, and turf-type Tall Fescue. Check with your lawn and garden store to see if they carry these varieties or can order them for you.
- If you enjoy having a lawn, make it small and place it close to your house where you will get the most use of it. Then, water your lawn only as often and as much as necessary, using the tips described in the section above. Remember, if the grass springs back when you step on it, there’s no need to water. Lawns grow better when they’re watered deeply and less frequently.
- Trees are excellent choices for xeriscaping because they require little water and help prevent evaporation by shading your yard. Here are some trees that are good candidates for a water-saving landscape: Flowering Magnolia, Weeping Larch, Mock Orange, and Vine Maple. (Note: When placing trees adjacent to city streets, please follow the City of Springfield’s guidelines for appropriate species.)
- Bushes and shrubs can be both attractive and practical. Look at the varieties that have been naturally successful in your yard and use those as a guide for adding new plants and removing water-intensive bushes. Some suggestions for good xeriscaping flora include sword fern, Blue Carpet Juniper, lilac, and Spring Flowering Heather.
- Plant flowers not just for their attractiveness but for their ability to use water efficiently. Here are some good examples of flowers that will brighten your yard but keep your water meter quiet: Siberian Iris, lavender, Sunset Cosmos, and yarrow.
- Check with local garden shops for additional xeriscaping options. Plant with a plan in mind to avoid replanting or invalidating the water-saving properties of the grasses, trees, shrubs, and flowers.
- Group plants with similar water needs together to simplify watering and avoid using too much water.
- Place plants with higher water needs in areas where water drains naturally, such as in depressions or at the bottom of a hill.
- Place a layer of mulch around trees and plants. It slows evaporation and discourages weed growth.
- Run a pitcher full of water and keep it in the refrigerator rather than running the tap to get cold water.
- Run your dishwasher only when it’s full. You use up to 12 gallons each time, whether it’s full or not.
- Scrape your dishes prior to loading them; rinsing dishes is not necessary with most dishwashers.
- Don’t run the water when washing dishes by hand. Fill a sink with soapy water and then fill the other side with clean rinse water. If you only have one sink basin, put the sudsy dishes on the counter until you’re finished, and then fill up the basin with clean water for rinsing.
- Use faucet aerators on all faucets. Like the water-saving showerhead, the aerators give you the same water pressure without using as much water.
- Conserve water by only washing full loads. Most washers use from 32 to 60 gallons of water per load. Set the water level appropriately for the amount or type of clothing you’re washing.
- Look for front-loading washers when buying a new appliance. They use up to one-third less water than top-loading machines. Also, look for models with a variety of water level and temperature settings to maximize water and energy savings.
- Look for ENERGY STAR appliances, which spin out more water, thus decreasing the time your laundry spends in the energy-hungry dryer. Some models are available for rebate through SUB. Visit our Rebates & Loans page for more information.
- Take showers rather than baths whenever possible. Showers consume less than half of the 60 gallons normally required for a bath.
- Install a low-flow showerhead and reduce your water consumption from 30 gallons for an average shower to just 13 gallons.
- Turn off the tap when shaving, brushing your teeth, or washing your hands and face. You’d be surprised how the gallons add up.
- Reduce the amount of water your toilet uses with each flush. Fill a plastic container with water and weigh it down in the tank. It will take up the space normally filled with water and save water each time you flush.
- Check your flush valve (or flapper) for leaks. Place a couple of drops of food coloring in the tank and watch the bowl to see if the color is seeping in. If so, you need to check the valve and the refill tube to see where the leak is.
- When replacing your old toilets, purchase the new water-saving models, which use as little as 1.6 gallons per flush.
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
- Have your children play in the sprinkler only when it’s time to water the lawn.
- Don’t run the hose while washing your car. Clean the car with a bucket of soapy water and use the hose just to rinse it off.
- Use covers to cut down on water evaporation from outdoor pools and hot tubs.
- Check for hidden water leaks. How? Read your water meter at the start and end of a period of time when you use no water, such as while you’re away from home.
- First, read your water meter before you leave (take a photo or write down the reading and note the position of the ‘needle’.)
- Second, when you return, before using any water, read your meter again. If the reading has changed, water has flowed through the meter, perhaps indicating a leak.
- Contact SUB Conservation Connection if you have questions.
- You can also leave a piece of paper under your faucets overnight to check for leaks.
- While you wait for hot water to come through your pipes, catch the flow in a watering can to use later on house plants or in the garden.
- And remember, your City of Springfield sewer/stormwater charges are based on how much water you use from December through April – so saving water in winter can save you money in summer!
When the weather gets very hot, even good water management habits may not be enough. During those times, SUB implements programs designed to spread water use over the course of the day. This keeps well systems from gettting stressed, and allows us to keep from drilling more wells, which keeps rates low for everyone.
On those rare occasions when Springfield has extended periods of hot, dry weather, SUB may ask customers to join together in limiting optional water use until temperatures return to normal. We may also ask customers to spread their water use across the day, helping decrease “peak” times that can stress water systems.