EBMUD offers ideas to promote conservation January 07 2015
For longer than most Californians would like to remember, local water districts have promoted water conservation, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District has stepped up its program to guide customers during the statewide drought.
Now is a good time to plant -- it's cooler, there's more moisture in the air and there has been precipitation. This makes the current time ideal to consider outdoor water-saving strategies.
EBMUD is continuing its program of offering rebates for residential landscape conversions. It has also developed new WaterSmart plant tags to guide consumers looking to convert to water-efficient landscaping and is working closely with area nurseries.
"The plant tags are so customers who are in the process of converting their landscapes and are trying to make better choices of plants they are putting outside can figure out easily which are the ones that are more water-efficient," said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD senior public information representative. "They're really to guide customers toward the best plants for the climate."
Nine nurseries throughout the East Bay are using the tags sporting the message "I'm a WaterSmart plant," including five in Alameda County: Encinal Nursery in Alameda, Westbrae Nursery in Berkeley, Thornhill Nursery in Montclair, Ace Garden Center Grand Lake in Oakland and Evergreen Nursery in San Leandro.
The four Contra Costa County participants are: Tassajara Nursery in Danville, Mt. Diablo Nursery and Orchard Nursery & Florist in Lafayette and Annie's Annual's in Richmond.
Customers can scan the back of the tags for information on water-wise plants and additional water-saving tips. Each nursery determines its inventory of WaterSmart plants based on certain criteria. They must be listed in EBMUD's plants and landscapes for summer-dry climates guide or appear in the state plant database, water-use classification of landscape, as a low water-using plant.
"Hundreds of plants qualify," Figueroa said. "Drought or no drought, we have dry summers with warm temperatures throughout most of the year so we really want to encourage people to pick plants that are going to be efficient."
Rebates are another conservation promotion and EBMUD is offering rebates in three areas of landscape conversion. The slogan "get cash for grass" refers to earning a rebate of 50 cents per square foot for removing a lawn. Installing drip irrigation earns 25 cents per square foot and rebates are also offered for installing a smart, self-regulating irrigation control.
Single-family homes can earn up to $2,500 as a credit on their water bill.
Conservation is gaining momentum and EBMUD has seen a huge jump in the number of people applying for rebates.
"Last year at this time, we had less than 50 customers in the queue for landscape rebates and this year we have more than 500 somewhere in the process of receiving their rebate," Figueroa said. "Customers must first apply and be evaluated by a water conservation technician before being preapproved, then they have six months to make their upgrades and submit the final paperwork for us to approve the rebate."
Mandatory restrictions statewide limit outdoor watering to no more than twice a week. Along with this restriction, the best way to conserve water is by finding and fixing leaks in irrigation systems and taking control of what is being watered.
Since there is no guarantee of how much precipitation the area will receive this winter, of how much snow will fall and how cold it will stay in the Sierras, water-smart gardening makes sense.
"As we go into winter, it's a good time for folks to think ahead to what kinds of changes they can make in their outdoors spaces right now so they can be really water-efficient next summer in case this drought goes on," Figueroa said. "If folks can think ahead and do anything that will reduce their outdoor water use long term those are the best steps they can take to help out in the drought."