It happens somewhere between midnight and 6 in the morning during most summer days. During those witching hours, when most people are resting before the challenges of the day ahead, automatic systems silently climb in synchronization from below ground and propel a precious resource. When the system is done, it silently submerges below ground.
These irrigation systems spread water on lawns all over Long Island and, indeed, the United States.
This year, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sent out a letter to the water departments throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, asking them to reduce water usage by 15 percent within the next three to four years.
The 15 percent reduction is “an ambitious goal,” acknowledged Ty Fuller, director of strategic initiatives and lead hydrogeologist at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which is “attainable” but “it will not be easy.”
For consumers, reducing water usage offers several benefits. For starters, less water used means a lower water bill. Beyond that, however, lower water use conserves a valuable resource. Cutting back on water use also keeps water sources like SCWA and others from needing to drill more wells, upgrade pumps or develop more water systems to meet the increasing summertime demands of Long Islanders eager for lush, green lawns.
As Fuller pointed out, lowering water demand during those peak hours can also ensure that the water system can maintain a fire flow protection.
“That’s always a top priority,” Fuller said. “We want to make sure we can always meet” that demand. It is particularly important in the midst of a drought and as the threat of wildfires increases.
Yet changing consumer behavior on any level is challenging. After all, some of those who need to alter their watering habits are the same people who make New Year’s resolutions that barely last a week.
Fuller said SCWA has identified its top water users during the summer and is reaching out to them to advise on different conservation practices.
The authority is also holding regular water talks and has created a Water Wise Club, where some 382,000 account customers can qualify for credits if they purchase water savings devices. These items include low-flow shower heads and rain sensors, which turn off sprinkler systems after rainstorms when the lawns already have sufficient moisture. The rain sensor provides up to a $50 account credit.
SCWA is encouraging customers to adopt an odd/even system. If their street address is an odd number they water their lawns on odd days, while the even numbers only water lawns on even days.
SCWA rolled out the Water Wise CheckUp scheme with Brinkmann Hardware in Blue Point. Through a consultation with homeowners, an expert identifies each point of water use and provides a road map for savings. Customers requesting a checkup can call 631-292-6101. Customers can also receive information and print out a form at the website www.scwa.com/mobile/water_wise_checkup.
Consumers who become more informed about best practices for watering their lawns can help make this conservation initiative a reality.
“People have been led to believe that irrigating every day is a good thing,” Fuller said. “That can encourage fungal growth. If people see brown blades on their grass, they assume that’s not irrigated properly,” but that can be fungal growth. Adding more water to the lawn can exacerbate the problem.
Cutting back on water usage is a “win-win situation” for the customer and for the water system, Fuller said. “Why would people not want to play a role?”