Water Conservation Starts with YOU! Water Everyday Jed Rau, Conservation Technician Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District Soil Easy Fertilizer
Conservation is a big term, problems seem big, the evening news seems to only talk about government, corporations and other big players. Global Warming Climate Change Algae Blooms Fish Kills Chesapeake Bay TMDL Watershed Improvement Plan …. Etc.
So…. What part can we play as individuals and what’s the point, really? • water conservation shows we’re good neighbors, helps others downstream $$$ • water conservation saves us money by reducing nutrient loss, reducing erosion, and reducing water treatment cost $$$ • water conservation reduces the need for costly government regulations $$$ • water conservation helps wildlife, including fish/crabs/etc. downstream • be part of the process, getting educated and informing elected leaders of your thoughts
Some Local/Personal Conservation Terms: Riparian Buffer Zone Cover Crops Cistern/Rain Barrel Water Sense labels Erosion Nutrient runoff Bacterial impairment Grass Buffer Stormwater Runoff Impervious Urban Surfaces …. Etc.
Water Conservation • In the Shenandoah Valley, water is seemingly cheap, clean and plentiful, so why protect water quality and conserve water quantity and can I really make a difference? • Irresponsibly using water makes droughts worse and last longer • Everyone lives downstream (someone else needs that water too, I promise) • No clean water means no healthy wildlife • No clean water means we have to clean it more before it’s drinkable, which means it’s more expensive • EPA mandates clean water, originally for point-source pollution, but now moving into non-point-source pollution, possibly meaning costly regulations that affect everyone • In the last 30 years, agricultural water pollution (fertilizer, soil erosion, pesticides, manure, etc) has decreased roughly 30-50%. Urban/suburban (i.e. all the rest of us) has increased 15-20%!
Urban water pollution has increased 15-20%? How can I play my part? • Agriculture has known for years how to conserve resources, from water to soil to fertilizer and other chemicals used, so let’s learn from them!
Agricultural Water Conservation Practices • Cropland Water Conservation • Winter Cover Crops – after cash crop harvest (usually corn or soybeans in our area), plant a small grain cover crop (Rye, Wheat, Barley, Triticale) that will grow before frost sets in and will protect the ground from winter erosion and nutrient runoff • Convert Cropland to Grass – rather than producing corn or soybeans as a crop, produce grass/hay/pasture which has much less erosion potential or chemical/fertilizer runoff • Sidedress nitrogen on Corn – instead of guessing how much nitrogen is needed, take soil tests, apply only fertilizer that is needed, in method best suited to corn growth pattern • Sod waterway – wet spots in fields are often difficult to till and production is far from a guarantee due to wetness. So fix the drainage problems with grading, plant with sod-forming grass, legumes etc and harvest hay rather than getting tractor stuck or losing productive acreage
Agricultural Water Conservation Practices • Cropland Water Conservation • Streambank stabilization – stream eroding into crop fields? Pull the bank back, shape, add appropriately sized rip-rap, plant strip of grass 35’ wide between crops and altered stream bank. This reduces both damaging erosion and runoff from field into stream. • Nutrient Management Planning – take soil tests regularly (at least once every three years if not sooner), plan fertilization timing to best help crop growth and reduce unnecessary fertilization or nutrient runoff • Irrigation – use soil moisture monitors, only irrigate as necessary, using extra water is costly and in the long term can do more harm than good
Agricultural Water Conservation Practices • Pastureland/Animal Water Conservation • Exclude cattle from waterways – fencing to exclude cattle, water troughs tied into well or other clean water source keeps cattle further from creek, area between fence and creek grows up in trees, bushes and other wildlife friendly vegetation • Manure pits, Composter Facilities Etc. – collect animal waste from confined areas, especially at dairies, poultry facilities and other agricultural production with large amounts of nutrient rich waste products. Store until Spring or Fall, apply on crop or grassland instead of fertilizer. Best to test before spreading and compare to soil test and nutrient needs to ensure no over-application occurs and manure is used most efficiently
Urban/Home Water Quantity • Lots of ways to conserve (use less) water while maintaining a healthy lawn/garden • Water in the morning or evening, when water will reach plants and not evaporate • Use common sense to water lawn. Don’t water during drought, don’t water after rain (many people do, believe me!) • Instead of grass and exotic water-hungry plants, plant native, drought tolerant species of flowers, bushes, trees. Cuts down on water use and also on weekly mowing cost/time. Also, during droughts, most native species can deal with the conditions better than exotics • Use cisterns and water barrels to gather/save/use rainwater from your roof
Urban/Home Water Quality • Look to farmers to learn how to protect water quality on your property • Don’t over fertilize – farmers have to pay lots of money for fertilizer, so they naturally tend to not waste it, using only what they need. Test your soil, find out what your soil needs, only use needed fertilizer. Fertilizer is Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium (that’s what those numbers on the bag stand for). 99% of yards locally do not need phosphorus, which incidentally is a major contributor to Bay pollution. • Other ways to fertilize? COMPOST yard waste and kitchen scraps. Buy a bin or create your own, just like farmers. Virginia Cooperative Extension
Soil is meant to be covered!!!! • Don’t encourage erosion, always have soil covered with vegetation, roots, mulch etc. • No soil should ever be bare – Any time soil is bare and it rains, there will beerosion! From a production standpoint, that erosion is taking away your best and most productive soil, the topsoil! To protect valuable topsoil farmers use cover crops or convert to grass. In a home situation, plant grass, flowers, bushes, trees, etc. to cover bare dirt, and mulch underneath until ground is covered by natural mulch. Prevent erosion! X
Soil is meant to be covered!!!! • Other ways to prevent erosion • Streamside vegetation – don’t mow right up to the edge of a stream, it weakens grass/plant roots which hold soil in place during rain events. Plant trees and allow grassand streamside vegetation to flourish, protecting the stream and providing wildlife habitat • Erosion fence during construction, hay bales, etc. X
Soil and Nutrient Conservation • Other ways to prevent erosion • Rain Gardens - Like sod waterways on a farm protecting wet spots and drainages in a field, these constructed/shaped gardens are filled with drought tolerant natives, making them both pretty and functional
Home Water Conservation • Conserve (use less) water in the home • Biggest source of wasted water at home? Flushing toilets. Old toilets used 2 gallons or more water per flush (often much much more!). Modern toilets must use 1.6 gpf or less. Some toilets have 2 flushes, one flush for liquids (<1 gpf) and one for solids (1.6 gpf). Buying a new toilet if yours uses more than 1.6 gpf will save $$$ and water • Showerheads also come in low flow (2.5 gpm or less) • Other ideas: • Fix leaks • turn off water while brushing • don’t‘ take hourlong showers, • Wash big loads of laundry, not lots of small ones • If possible, buy new high-efficiency washers, they save water and electricity!
Urban AreaWater Conservation Problems • Roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, and highways. They’re all needed for daily life. However, what happens to these areas when it rains? They’re designed to shed water. Where does that water go? Where did it go before urban growth? What happens to the urban creeks with all that excess water? What happens when you make a natural creek into a concrete ditch with concrete/pavement/roofs on every side? • Urban areas can concentrate chemicals that rural/agricultural areas may not. Car has leaky oil? Spilled antifreeze while topping it off? Spray herbicide right before it rains on/near the sidewalk? Fertilize grass without looking at the label or taking soil samples? Winchester Northeast of Woodstock Woodstock
Various Other Water Conservation Practices • Properly dispose of used motor oil and other fluids, don’t dump in the yard or street! This should include fixing leaky fluids in your car, household chemicals, paint, etc! Take it to the landfill where they safely dispose of it. • Are you on well water? Protect your well! Don’t store chemicals nearby, or manure piles, dead animals, etc. It can contaminate your water and your neighbors too.
Various Other Water Conservation Practices • Are you on septic? Get it pumped out! Preferably every 5 years, definitely no more than 10 years! Never pumped it in 30 years and never had a problem? Probably means that the wastewater has found a way to penetrate further into the ground, possibly contaminating yours or someone else's well water!!!!!!! • Farmers are being asked to voluntarily fence their cattle out of streams. It makes for cleaner water for their cattle to drink, means fish can live there again, and it lowers our water treatment costs because we don’t have to clean up after cows, pigs, etc. So, just like the farmers, please clean up your pet’s poop, especially near roads and streams (roads lead water directly to streams).
Various Other Water Conservation Practices • Don’t feed the geese at the pond! There’s too many, the water is foul, it’s overall bad for water quality to have that many waterfowl in one place year round.
Federal/Regional Water Conservation • Next “big” thing? Chesapeake Bay TMDL • EPA mandated sediment/nutrient reductions by 2025 • Each Bay state (VA, MD, PA, NJ, NY, DC) must create a Watershed Improvement Plan to accomplish EPA goals • VA asked counties to tell the state how they plan to accomplish goals • Nutrient reductions are based on a Bay-wide computer model • Reductions are expected by all contributors: agriculture, industry, wastewater treatment, urban areas
See excel spreadsheet (Chesapeake Bay TMDL goals) for goals set by local Northern Shenandoah Valley counties Virginia
Thank you for your interest in soil and water conservation.. • Questions? • Jed.firstname.lastname@example.org 540 465-2424 x110 • 722-B East Queen Street • Strasburg, VA 22657 • Lfswcd.org