Focus on water conservation — we can do this!

Back in April, I wrote about the Water Savings Check Up offered to residents by the Santa Fe Irrigation District. This is a free consulting program designed to help residents analyze their water usage, especially irrigation use, and to find ways to reduce overall water usage. All residential users in RSF are now faced with Level 3 Mandatory Water Use Restrictions, and a mandate from SFID to reduce our water use by 45 percent from 2013 levels. Most of us are seeking some guidance in attempting to reach that goal.

About three years ago, my husband and I began re-evaluating our landscaping and use of water for irrigation. With the help of a professional landscaper, our first step was to take out some turf and overgrown vegetation.

Next, we began a complete overhaul of the irrigation system. This meant replacing old valves and becoming more vigilant about spotting and fixing leaks. Over the past 2 1/2 years, we have replaced spray irrigation with drip lines where possible and installed new MP rotator sprinkler heads. Landscapers and SFID recommend both as water-efficient irrigation tools.

And, of course, we continue to look at places to remove turf and to install more drought-tolerant plants.

When the Water Savings consultant came to our house in April, we had already seen reductions in our water use due to the efforts we had made over the past two years. He was able to offer us some fine-tuning tips.

• Install an upgraded rain sensor to our controller.

• Monitor the meter on a weekly or semi-weekly basis.

• Install a separate meter to monitor just the irrigation water.

• Keep up with preventive maintenance, such as replacing old irrigation valve diaphragms, defective nozzles, etc.

Since then, we cut our watering days and times to meet the new requirements and we have been monitoring our water meter every week, not just to record our usage, but also to catch the first sign of any leaks. The turf that we have now is a little brown, but everything else looks healthy.

Meanwhile, I went online to sfidwater.org and found our historical usage for 2014 and 2013. When our bill arrived for April and May 2015, here is what I discovered: We had reduced our water usage by 40 percent compared with the same period in 2014, and a whopping 60 percent compared with the same period in 2013.

Were we overwatering in 2013? Probably. We were transplants from the wetlands of the Midwest and needed to be schooled in landscaping for the dry, Southern California climate. It took us a few years to find educated professionals to help us. By conscientiously following the steps that SFID and others recommended, we have made a huge dent in our water usage. We will continue to make changes and hope to decrease our usage even more.

I know our case is just one small example. The steps we took were basic ones. Many of you have made extraordinary progress in cutting your water use as well, often with much more drastic and creative measures to incorporate new landscaping than we took. I’d love to hear from you if you would like to share your experiences. (Perhaps we can convince the Rancho Santa Fe Review to write an article featuring you and your success stories.) Throughout the Covenant, we can see signs of less watering and more drought-tolerant landscaping.

Rest assured that the Association is trying hard to be a leader in reducing water consumption as well. Manager Bill Overton has directed staff to make water conservation a top priority. Arnold Keene, director of Parks and Recreation, has made great strides in changing plantings and reducing water use for irrigation throughout all Association-owned and maintained properties.

Our Manager, in collaboration with Mike Bardin, general manager of SFID, is leading an Emergency Water Task Force to develop methods to meet this crisis. And, along with our neighboring communities, they will be working with CSD and other local agencies to find long-term reclaimed-water solutions to the ongoing challenge of water scarcity in our area.

In RSF, it is also critical that we find ways to use water wisely without increasing our vulnerability to wildfires. As Mike Bardin said last week: “We’re facing the challenge of a generation when it comes to water.”

I believe that if there are people anywhere in California who have the will and the ability to meet these challenges, they are the members of RSFA. I know that we can be leaders in protecting the environment and conserving our natural resources — especially water.

For more information, check out sfidwater.org.

ann.boon@me.com

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