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: Smart Water for Trees

Lawns can go dormant in a dry spell, but trees and shrubs remain active during growing season. We’re in the dry part of summer now, with moderate drought conditions when surface water level declines and plant growth can be stunted so please continue to water trees and shrubs.

When you water, wet the entire root area of the tree and soak the soil approximately 12 inches deep. A 6-to-8 foot tree uses about 2 1/2 to 3 gallons of water once a week.

Soaker hoses, trickle or drip systems can feed the root zone with minimum surface wetting and water waste. Alternatively, a berm around the tree or shrub base may be filled with water for slow infiltration and percolation into the root zone.


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