Do you know when, where and how to take water in ways that minimize impacts to our watershed and its aquatic ecology? Read on to learn more about water conservation best practices in Trinity County…
1) The best place to source your water is from a certified community services district (CSD) water district. Utilizing a certified water district ensures that your water will be clean, safe, and withdrawn under the best possible conditions for the watershed. Using a water district will help you avoid the regulatory costs and difficulties of withdrawals, as well as the expense and upkeep involved with maintaining your own water withdrawal system. There are numerous districts across the county; talk to your local provider about joining. Customers that live outside of the service area of a water district can purchase water from Hayfork’s Trinity County Waterworks District and the Weaverville CSD (http://www.weavervillecsd.com/) to supplement their water storage.
2) If you don’t have access to a CSD, withdrawing water from a well will reduce your impact on stream health and aquatic wildlife. Well water is drawn from the groundwater system. Rain and snowmelt recharge groundwater, which in turn recharges some streams. While wells do have an impact on some streams, it is less than when water is drawn directly from the surface water. For more information check the USGS website at http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthgwdecline.html
3) If you have to pump water from a stream, do it legally. It is illegal to take water from streams without permits; there are numerous laws about withdrawing water from streams, rivers and springs, and numerous agencies regulate these activities. This includes siphoning water into a tank in a truck, as well as diversion intakes. The rules can seem a bit intimidating, but the Salmonid Restoration Federation recently created a brochure explaining which agencies to contact and how to start the process. It is posted on their website at http://calsalmon.org/srf-projects/water-rights-education#tab1. If you would like a printed copy, please stop by the TCRCD office and we’ll be happy to print one for you.
4) Low flow pumps are much better for streams than high flow pumps or high horsepower submersible pumps. Low flow pumps remove a smaller amount of water over a longer period of time when compared to high flow pumps. Low flow systems include solar pumps, “ram” pumps, and standard electric pumps. These pumps use small amounts of electricity and are beneficial to the watershed because they don’t surpass the water recharge rate. However, they do require tanks for the system to function.
5) If you do pump water from a stream, it is essential to use a screen on the pump intake. Using screens to cover your pipe or pump in the stream keeps you from sucking up baby fish; it also keeps debris out of your pump, prolonging its life. Screen mesh openings should not exceed 3/32 inch for woven wire or perforated plate screens, or 0.0689 inch (1.75 mm) for profile wire screens, with a minimum 27% open area. The full list of screen criteria is available at the following website: http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov/hcd/pumpcrit.pdf Here is an example of an appropriate fish screen: http://www.pump-rite.com. Remember, the worst way to take water from a stream is with a high flow pump.
6) The best time of day to pump is late at night or early in the morning. In northern California, forests use a lot of water during the heat of the day through a process called evapotranspiration. At night, they need far less water leading to significantly higher stream flow during the night than during the day. When you take water at night or early in the morning there is likely more water in the stream making your water take less impactful. Set up a timer so that you can pump at night, it’ll save you time, energy and water.
7) Have appropriate water storage. Do you have a water tank? Not a tank in the back of your truck, but large tanks, (2,500 gallons or more) and/or lots of them. Having large water storage systems greatly expands your options for water use, and can greatly reduce your impact on aquatic life. Storage allows you to take water either in winter when water is abundant, or take water at lower flow rates (see low flow pumps above). It can also help utilize rainwater through harvesting and other creative water collection ideas. It serves as a convenient way of using water from a CSD water district in case of emergency. California Water Boards regulate the use of water storage tanks. See the following website for more information: www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/publications_forms/forms/docs/sdu_registration.pdf
8) Have a leaky faucet, tank, or pipe? Fix it! Maintaining your water infrastructure is essential to water conservation. Even little tiny drips waste large amounts of water and your money spent pumping that water; especially if you have several leaks. One home with three leaky faucets loosing 60 drops per minute equates to approximately 6,248 gallons wasted per year.
9) Set up irrigation systems that conserve water and improve plant production. Using drip irrigation, a soaker hose, or other direct application irrigation delivers water right where it is needed. Setting up a direct application irrigation system with timers allows you to control and monitor water consumption, improving plant production and saving time and energy spent irrigating. Once purchased, these systems can be used for numerous years. Set it up, save water and your time!
10) Using mulch to cover the soil around your plants has numerous beneficial effects. Mulches act as vapor barriers, reducing evaporation and keeping soil moist. They also reduce soil temperature due to solar radiation. Mulches shade the soil, reduce weed growth and save you time pulling weeds or using herbicides. Rice straw is a good mulch material as it tends to be weed seed free. Mulch also reduces surface erosion from heavy rainfall events and is an effective way to protect areas where bare soil has been exposed.