Water rates between 2010 and 2015 increased by 41% according to circleofblue.org. Reasons for this increase vary from the replacement costs of the aging water infrastructure to that raising water rates is less controversial than raising property taxes. Another reason for increases is reportedly the reduction in water consumption by the government-mandated water reduction regulations. The lower demand has forced municipalities to make up the lost revenue by increasing the rates.
No matter the cause of the higher water rates, water like any other homeowner association expense should be contained wherever possible. However, over-watering or wasted water may cost more than the actual water, with environmental damage and potential legal issues.
Environmental damage primarily comes from over-watering plants and trees, which leads to various problems. The different soils beneath the grass and other plants have porous spaces filled with oxygen. When watering, water fills those porous spaces and pushes out the oxygen.
Continually over-watering keeps those pores constantly filled with water instead of the oxygen plants need for growth. This excessive water literally suffocates the roots and kills the plant.
If this over-watering does not kill the plant outright, at a minimum, limiting oxygen in the soil will put the plant under stress. This stress makes plants more prone to disease and insect damage. Many plants, including grass, go dormant in dry periods and do not necessarily need additional watering. Proper plantings, plantings correct for the area’s environment, may not need extra water. Interestingly, over-watered lawns also have more weeds, and these weeds are typically more challenging to control.
Fertilizer applied to over-watered lawns and other plants have a propensity to wash through the soil before being absorbed by the plants’ roots. Unfortunately, a typical response to this non-absorption is to apply more fertilizer. Even more impactful is unabsorbed fertilizer contaminating groundwater or turning into runoff.
Surface water runoff, caused by stormwater or over-watering, is another issue that can cost an association in fines. Runoff most often occurs when there is more water than the soil can absorb. Fineable runoff is polluted water that has drained into streams, storm drains or other water sources. Runoff pollutants can include debris, chemicals, and other deemed pollutants that have drained from surface land. Fines from the Environmental Protection Agency can be in the many thousands of dollars.
Over-watering also leads to faster deterioration of association hardscaping. Hardscape items such as fences, HOA front entrance signs and retaining walls constructed of wood deteriorate or rot much sooner. Excess water can undermine walls and front entrance signs. Walks and streets are negatively affected by excess watering, no matter the construction material used because of the potential for erosion and soil consolidation. Soil consolidation is a process by which soil decreases in volume when oxygen is forced from the soil by water and not replenished.
Methods to reduce over-watering:
- Confirm emitter/sprinkler heads are working properly and spraying evenly and with the correct spray pattern.
- Reevaluate watering area needs; As shrubs and trees grow and mature, water needs may decrease. As trees grow and provide shade to lawns, this may reduce watering needs.
- Replace older emitters/sprinkler heads. Upgrading to water-efficient emitters/sprinkler heads can drastically reduce water usage.
- Installing a weather-based irrigation controller can improve watering efficiency by up to 40%.
- Installing an automatic rain shutoff will reduce usage when it rains.
- Ensure the landscaper or irrigation company is checking for leaks. Broken emitters/sprinkler heads and broken supply lines not only waste water but also do additional damage to the lawn and subsurface.
- Planting shrubs and plants with low water needs naturally reduce watering needs.
- Mulching can reduce temperatures in the root systems and help induce moisture, thus reducing watering needs.
- Higher grass levels reduce evaporation and can reduce water usage.
- Water the soil and root systems instead of the leaves. Direct contact with the soil helps reduce evaporation. WDMC
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