Weekend Warriors Soak Up Water Savings

City offers incentives for improving landscapes
1:07 PM, Jul 27, 2020

In a short six-year time-span, the City of Bozeman's Water Conservation Division has reduced per capita water use in Bozeman households by ten percent. Jessica Ahlstrom, City water conservation specialist, counts that as a success but sees that a lot more work needs to be done. Bozeman's fast-paced growth has brought twenty percent more residents to the area since 2012, all of whom rely on the same amount of water year after year. Summer months are, not surprisingly, particularly draining for Bozeman's limited water supply, with roughly 50% of household water going into yards— a percentage that Ahlstrom and the Water Conservation program has their sights set on.

This summer, when national polling of homeowners indicates that 70% plan to tackle home improvement projects while social distancing, Ahlstrom sees an opportunity to help conserve Bozeman's water supply for years to come. "Our yards soak up a good portion of our water resource in the summer. That means they're a great place to create a substantial and sustained impact on our community's water use." Ahlstrom says. "While homeowners are tackling yard projects this summer, they have an opportunity to lower their personal water use, save money, and conserve the community's water resource." That's a triple win for weekend warriors looking to make the most of their at-home time.

To help slow the demand on Bozeman's water supply during summer months, the City of Bozeman takes a two-pronged approach, offering both inspiration and incentives to residents ready to save water while sprucing up their yard. For inspiration, a free Water Smart Planting Guide is available in print at local garden centers, City of Bozeman buildings, or online at bozemanwater.com. The guide contains hundreds of ideas for drought-tolerant plantings and best practices for landscaping with water conservation in mind. "The Water Smart Planting Guide is a one-stop resource for everything from mulch to sprinkler maintenance to water-smart perennial selection," explains Ahlstrom. Additionally, the City offers tools to kick start yard and landscape water savings, including free sprinkler system assessments. "The demand for our free sprinkler system assessment is on the rise, which is fantastic," Ahlstrom says. The irrigation assessment is free to all Bozeman residents and saves an estimated average of 700 gallons per week for a single-family home during the yard watering season. Easy-to-use DIY assessment kits are also available for rental through the City.

Beyond sprinkler system assessments and adjustments, Ahlstrom says there are many yard maintenance techniques that Bozeman residents can implement for near-instant water savings. For example, Ahlstrom says, "Something as simple as setting yard irrigation to run in the early morning instead of midday can save water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation during our hot summer months." Among the other quick tips, Ahlstrom sites: raising the mower blade to three inches, keeping two inches of mulch around trees and planting beds and watering lawns no more than three days a week. "There are so many small changes that residents can make to their landscaping that cumulatively can make a big difference in our water supply."

In addition to the Planting Guide and assessment kits, the City offers rebate programs for outdoor irrigation solutions and installation of drought-tolerant plants. "We offer rebates for homeowners to install WaterSense labeled smart controllers, drip irrigation systems, rain sensors, multiple stream multiple trajectory sprinkler nozzles, and drought-tolerant plants and grasses. For homeowners looking to their yards for home improvement projects, there are hundreds of dollars worth of rebate options possible right outside their doors," says Ahlstrom. She adds that the process to apply is as easy as going to bozemanwater.com for more information on the rebate program and a downloadable application form.

With the full arsenal of education, outreach, and incentives the Water Conservation Division has to offer, Ahlstrom is cautiously optimistic about the future of Bozeman's water supply. "We still have the challenge of growth to contend with, but the community seems to have really embraced the water conservation program so far. There is a future for Bozeman that has both green grass and water to spare, but we must work together to make it a reality. ”

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