Gilbert stressing water conservation - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert stressing water conservation

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Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009 6:21 pm | Updated: 12:42 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Gilbert is gearing up its water conservation education at the same time many of its residents are taking steps to produce green, lush winter lawns.

Gilbert is gearing up its water conservation education at the same time many of its residents are taking steps to produce green, lush winter lawns.

The town has two specialists who offer water-saving tips and fan out into the community to tell people how they can save water, and usually money in the process, too. But it can be an uphill battle.

Take overseeding, for example. This is the practice of cutting a Bermuda grass lawn back in the fall and overlaying it with rye or another grass variety that will stay green throughout the winter.

Arizona cities have been trying to steer their residents away from doing this for years, to varying degrees of success. Under state law, homeowners associations for neighborhoods built since 2001 can't require residents to overseed, but popular opinion can turn it into a requirement anyway.

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Gilbert resident Susan Durrant said she remembers the uproar one year when her HOA decided not to overseed its common areas. "The majority were very upset about it," she said. "They want their kids to be able to play in the grass. It's our summer, and it's finally nice outside. But then there's that icky brown grass, and it sticks to your clothes."

The HOA hasn't skipped overseeding since, she said.

Durrant works two days a week in the office at Coronado Elementary School, where Gilbert water conservation specialist Eric Braun made two presentations on Tuesday, part of the town's strategy to educate residents through their children.

He said residents who don't overseed can cut their landscape water consumption by 20 percent, and that's generally the biggest portion of their water bills. The Bermuda grass is also better off if it is allowed to go dormant between growing seasons rather than put through the stress of being chopped and having a winter coat slapped on top of it.

"When it's winter it wants to go dormant, but when you water it it's going to try to stay alive longer," he said.

If homeowners aren't ready to go cold turkey when it comes to green grass, they can overseed selectively, concentrating on the back yard if that's where the kids spend more of their time, for example. And many people who do go that route use much more water than is necessary, Braun said.

"We have some people watering that lawn five to six times a day, and you really only need to do it two to three times a month," he said.

Gilbert spent $318,850 of its water utility revenue on conservation efforts during the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Mesa has been on the anti-overseeding bandwagon for years, also. Last month it issued a challenge to its residents to save 40 million gallons of water this winter by not planting winter rye.

Braun and his colleagues in the town's water conservation division make about 50 public presentations per year that reach about 2,000 people. Residential water audits involving a home visit by Braun or his colleague Jeff Lee are even more popular, with the two of them visiting about 350 houses a year to help people find leaky pipes and other sources of water waste.

He also deputizes Gilbert schoolchildren in the search through presentations such as the one he made in front of Maura Landers-Mann's fourth-grade class last week.

Students in class were tasked with measuring the water dripping through a hole in a plastic jug, then were told to scour their homes for leaky faucets.

Tanner Harris, 10, picked up the practical implications of conservation along with the environmental ones: "You can save a lot of money by telling one of your parents that one of the faucets is dripping," he said.

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