Waterwise Wednesday: Clean Gutters, Clean Water

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Annually, more than 50% of phosphorus in our surface waters comes from leaves in the street according to a 2016 study by the United States Geological Survey, making leaves one of the largest sources of urban phosphorus pollution.

As rain falls and flows through leaves, phosphorus leaches out much like a tea bag in water. This “leaf tea” flows through our storm sewer system to the North Platte River.

Too much phosphorus causes large and potentially dangerous algae blooms that can block sunlight for aquatic plants, clog the gills of fish, reduce levels of dissolved oxygen, and produce toxins that are harmful if ingested. It only takes one pound of phosphorus to produce 500 pounds of algae (Vallentyne 1974).

Removing leaves from the street before it rains can reduce the amount of phosphorus in urban stormwater by 80% compared to no leaf removal (USGS 2016).

Protect your waters, by sweeping leaves back onto the lawn or garden as mulch, composting them, or putting them into the City’s yardwaste container.

Waterwise Wednesday: Freeze Prep

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Time to put away the watering tools, the season’s first hard freeze is predicted for late this week.

– Winterize sprinkler systems by expelling all the water from the irrigation system and equipment, then blow out with pressurized air.

– Empty any remaining water and clean any residue from rain barrels or other water capture devices.

– Disconnect hoses from outdoor spigots and store them inside. Shut off water to outdoor spigots if possible.

– Clear gutters of leaves and debris to avoid trapping rain and snow melt that may freeze and pull the gutters away from the house.


Waterwise Wednesday: Fall Water Tips

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1. Change the Timer. Cooler weather means lawns require less water.

2. Do a thorough sprinkler system check and make necessary repairs. A line puncture 1/32nd of an inch in diameter wastes up to 6,300 gallons of water per month, which is higher than both Scottsbluff and Gering’s monthly minimum water use rate. (Rates increase for water use above 5,000 gallons per month in both cities.)

3. Plan(t) Ahead. Fall is a great time to introduce native perennials and grasses to your landscaping. They establish root systems during the fall and, once mature, will use less water and chemicals than traditional landscape plants.

Waterwise Wednesday: Dirty Laundry

Photo © Andrey Bourdioukov

Cleaning synthetic clothes dirties the environment with microfibers according to a study by UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

The microfibers shed during washing and drying then flow in the wastewater to the treatment plant. About 5% of the microfibers accumulate in the sludge which is ultimately used to make compost fertilizer. Smaller percentages are released with treated water back into waterways or landfilled.

Amazingly, that 5% has become,”5.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of synthetic microfibers emitted from apparel washing between 1950 and 2016, with 2.9 Mt finding their way into waterbodies and a combined 2.5 Mt emitted onto terrestrial environments (1.9 Mt) and landfilled (0.6 Mt),” says the Science Daily article.

According to the researchers, simple cheap solutions can prevent microfiber release at the source. Microfiber filters in dryers, selecting a gentler wash methods, washing clothes less often, and foregoing synthetic fabrics among the list.

For more information see the full article at Science Daily

Waterwise Wednesday: Out of Names

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A little water trivia today.

Wilfred will be the last named Atlantic hurricane of 2020 given to the low pressure system off the coast of West Africa IF it develops into a cyclone.

If that happens, the Atlantic region will name any subsequent 2020 hurricanes with letters of the Greek alphabet, only the second time since naming hurricanes began in 1953.

The World Meteorological Association (WMO) designates twenty-one tropical storm names for a particular region every year. So far this year, the Atlantic region spawned 20 storms.

Waterwise Wednesday: Fall Tree Tips

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Trees serve as vital parts of our community’s green infrastructure, helping protect our homes from weather elements and extreme temperatures.

Help trees as we go into Fall by applying a 3-4 inches of mulch in a 3-6 foot ring around trees and shrubs. Keep the mulch from touching the tree’s trunk.

Check that trees adequate soil moisture, deep watering as necessary until the ground freezes. Soil should be moist to a depth of about 12-18 inches. Water the entire area underneath the tree’s drip-line if possible.

Don’t fertilize trees now and avoid pruming as trees and shrubs need to harden off before going into winter. If pruning must be done, wait until the plant is dormant.

Good Fall care will help trees flourish and continue to their vital work as part of our community’s green infrastructure.