Water conservation remains important year round

By HOLLY DICKMAN

Special to The Hays Daily News

Exceptional. That is the designation given to the drought we are facing, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Exceptional drought is the worst classification of drought on the monitor's scale.

There is absolutely no question conditions continue to be dry, and precipitation is needed -- desperately.

When experiencing periods of drought; thoughts often turn to water conservation, and rightly so. Water conservation might be thought of and often talked about during the growing season, in regards to outdoor water use (i.e. irrigation, etc.). However, it is important to think about conserving water year round.

There are many ways to conserve water throughout the year indoors and out. Here are some examples:

Indoors:

* Install low-flow shower heads and high-efficiency washing machines, dishwashers and toilets.

* Run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads only, or lower the water settings for smaller loads.

* Check for toilet leaks and other water leaks throughout your home.

A dripping faucet or a leaking toilet can add up to many gallons of water wasted.

* Use "leftover" drinking water from glasses and water bottles or jugs to water houseplants.

* Capture cool water coming from the tap while waiting for it to get hot to fill fish tanks, water plants, etc.

Outdoors:

* Choose plant species that are more drought tolerant and suitable to the area. An example of this would be choosing a warm-season grass such as buffalo grass versus a cool-season species such as Kentucky bluegrass.

* Water landscape plants deeply and infrequently to encourage a deeper root system that can withstand periods of drought much more so than plants with shallow root systems.

* Use watering devices that place the water right where it needs to be (i.e. soaker hoses, drip irrigation, etc.)

* Try not to overwater. Learn plants' water needs and water different types appropriately.

* Do not operate in-ground irrigation systems on an automatic timer. Manually turn them on and off as needed if possible.

* Use mulch around landscape plants to help hold the moisture where it is needed longer, reduce water-stealing weed competition and moderate soil temperatures.

If drought conditions continue, we likely will see more restrictions and costs associated with water use. Efficient and conservative use of the water we do have will help to ease the strain on our water sources now and in the future.

Do your part to conserve water and encourage others around you to do so as well.

For more information on drought-tolerant landscape plants and efficient water use practices, contact the Ellis County Extension office at (785) 628-9430 or visit www.ellis.ksu.edu.

Holly Dickman is Ellis County Horticulture Extension agent