Thursday, September 9, 2010

Drought Alert for D.C. Region

WASHINGTON - The D.C. area's heavy dose of sunshine over the last six weeks has begun to take its toll on the region's water supply system.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has issued a drought watch for the D.C. region, asking residents and business to conserve water.

The record high temperatures along with the absence of rain in the area has affected streamflow and groundwater levels throughout the Potomac River Basin. In the last month, precipitation levels are 50 percent below normal.

While water demand decreases as fall approaches, COG wants people to take the appropriate steps to make sure the strain on supply systems is minimal.

"We are encouraging folks, sort of as an awareness step, to encourage conservation now, so if the drought were to persist and become worse, folks are practiced at what to do to conserve water," says COG's water resources technical manager Steve Bieber.

The watch is the second step in COG's four-stage drought response plan. Officials do not anticipate the watch reaching a "warning" or "emergency" phase.

COG wants residents and businesses to use water wisely during their daily routines, including:
  • Limiting the watering of lawns, plants and shrubs
  • Using a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways
  • Using a commercial car wash that recycles water
  • Reducing shower length
  • Turning off water while brushing teeth
  • Washing full loads in dish and clothes washers
If watering your lawn in necessary, Bieber says two waterings a week is enough to sustain its health.

"Measure the water using something simple like a rain gauge or you can even use a tuna can so you know how much water is going on your lawn," he says.

"You want to limit your watering to about one inch a week. Your best bet is to divide the watering of one inch into two waterings per week, typically in the evening, so you are not losing a lot of it to evaporation."

COG also asks people to use extra caution when smoking outside or using outdoor grills due to the fire hazard they present when used around extremely dry conditions.

Read other posts about conserving water on the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog

Protect Your Groundwater Day, September 14

There seems to be a day for everything. And according to the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), September 14th is Protect Your Groundwater Day.

“Every person can do something to protect groundwater in their local area—from not polluting it to using water wisely,” said Cliff Treyens, NGWA Public Awareness Director. “We each have a personal responsibility to protect groundwater. The good news is that for most people all it takes is a small adjustment in their daily habits.”

On Protect Your Groundwater Day, NGWA urges you to ACT.

ACT —acknowledge, consider, take action.

Use this day to begin doing your part for protecting one of our most important natural resources — groundwater!

1. Acknowledge the causes of preventable groundwater contamination and water waste. Remember, any chemicals used in your yard have the potential to wash into storm drains and pollute local waterways —
2. Consider which apply to you —
3. Take action to prevent groundwater contamination —

When it comes to hazardous household substances:
  • Store them properly in a secure place
  • Use them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Dispose of them safely.
When it comes to water conservation:
For more information about Protect Your Groundwater Day, visit the NGWA website

Getting rid of your dirty little secrets - Where to dispose of old garden chemicals

Okay. So you've decided to go organic in your garden and stop using all of those chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that you used to rely on. That's great, because fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can wash into storm drains and pollute local waterways.

But what are you supposed to do with all of those foul-smelling bottles of chemicals that are taking up room in your garden shed or garage? Obviously, you can't throw them in the trash or pour them down a drain somewhere. The correct way to dispose of any toxic product is to take them to a toxic disposal site. has a great website that helps you locate the best place to recycle ANY materials, including toxic garden chemicals. Just enter the product and your zip code to Find Recycling Centers near you and this great site will bring up the closest location. Click on a location for more information, including a map!

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