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Drought Myths

MYTH: “If it rains, the drought is over.”

TRUTH: Uh, no. That’s like saying if you’re bankrupt, your first minimum-wage paycheck will solve all of your financial problems. California doesn’t just need rain. It needs a LOT of rain — and winter snow in the mountains — to start digging out from the water supply impacts of this multi-year drought. It could take years.

MYTH: “There are no mandatory water conservation measures in effect.”

TRUTH: Per the state mandate, water conservation measures are in effect now and have been since the Action Plan was approved locally in the SCV on August 12, 2014

MYTH: “The mandatory water conservation measures mean we must ration our water.”

TRUTH: The water conservation measures don’t ration water, but they do limit certain types of water use — for example, you can’t hose down your driveway, you need to use a shut-off nozzle when you wash your car, and you can be fined if your landscape irrigation causes runoff onto sidewalks and into gutters. The measures also do mandate a certain percent reduction in water use. Check with your water retailer to see the percent you need to reduce by.

MYTH: “I don’t need to make any changes because we’re always in a drought in California.”

TRUTH: Droughts are cyclic, so it may feel like we’re always going into or out of a drought. Because of this, water use efficiency and conservation should be a lifestyle. We must start thinking differently and changing our lives permanently because even if we have one good year of rain, we won’t be out of the drought.  Therefore we encourage people to make lifestyle changes and not merely shooting for compliance of state mandated measures.

MYTH: “If I don’t reduce my water use by 25 percent, I’ll be fined.”

TRUTH: While a 25 percent per capita reduction remains the overall goal, check with your water retailer to find your specific percent and the consequences for not reducing use – they vary by retailer.

MYTH: “I’ve saved water in the past, so I’m exempt from all mandatory measures now!”

TRUTH: Again, no. While the Action Plan does contain exemption provisions that could apply to a small minority of water users, they are not automatic, they would only allow exemption from the odd-even irrigation schedule provision, and there’s a significant verification process that must be adhered to.

The bottom line? The mandatory measures apply to EVERYONE, and the odd-even exemption is only applicable to a very, very small minority of water users.

MYTH: “If I save 20% now, I will be penalized later by having to save another 20%.”

TRUTH: While it’s useful to monitor your own water consumption, you will not be penalized later by reducing now.

MYTH: “I can water as much as I want on my watering day.” / “Because you didn’t tell me how much to water on my watering days, I can water as much as I want!”

TRUTH: No. You can water as much as you want until your landscape produces runoff. Then you will be in violation of a state mandated conservation measure and would be subject to written warnings and/or fines.

Solution to avoid runoff: It’s best to water in multiple short cycles allowing your plants to develop strong roots for a more drought-tolerant landscape. Typical Santa Clarita soil consists of clay and watering more than three minutes will normally cause runoff.

The Cycle and Soak method works by dividing the current run time into separate cycles. For example, if you are currently watering 12 minutes, water only 3 minutes per cycle, but run 4 cycles. Once you have completed the first 3 minute cycle, run a second, third and fourth cycle an hour apart so that you allow for soak time.

Tips for a successful Cycle and Soak:

  • Keep your run times to three minutes or less.
  • Multiple run times should be set an hour apart.
  • The optimum time to water your landscape is between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Water less in shady areas.
  • Watch your sprinklers for any clogs, broken sprinklers, runoff or wasted water.

MYTH: “I have a smart irrigation controller (aka weather-based irrigation controller). I’m exempt from the watering schedule.”

TRUTH: No, you are not exempt. If you have a smart controller and allow your controller to water every day, you need to change the days you water to abide by the watering schedule. This means your controller will water only on days that you allow, but it will water for a longer period of time. This is normal. Your controller knows how to “cycle and soak”.

This method for changing irrigation days assumes you have allowed the controller to water for seven days previously and now need to omit days.

Here is a video with step by step instructions on how to set you controller: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV_fa8sHZT8

The detailed instructions can be found at: https://clwa.org/changing-watering-days-on-your-smart-controller

Landscaping and Water Myths

MYTH: “All drought-tolerant plants are cacti and all drought-tolerant landscapes look like the desert (Las Vegas, NV and Arizona).”

TRUTH: Not all drought-tolerant plants are cacti; however, that is the picture most people commonly think of when they hear the words “drought tolerant”. The truth is that there are a variety of colorful drought tolerant options for your landscape.

You can find information in the following helpful resources:

MYTH: “Succulents are the best drought tolerant plants for Santa Clarita.”

TRUTH: Succulents work for some micro-climates in Santa Clarita; however, with our hot summers succulents can get sunburned and with our cold winters, they can eventually freeze.

You can find information in the following helpful resources:

MYTH: “Spring is the best time of year to plant.”

TRUTH: In Southern California, fall is the best time of year to plant. It’s a mild season, usually with ample rainfall, and will allow plants to become established before hot summers.

MYTH: “When my yard is measured for artificial turf, this is an accurate measurement of how much grass I am removing.”

TRUTH: Actually, artificial turf measurements are typically more than your actual lawn square footage.  Think of it as a giant carpet.  The installer must measure the turf to fit the entire space, which means they are measuring for more artificial turf than you will need.

MYTH: “It is better to replace my lawn with artificial turf than plants.”

TRUTH: While replacing your lawn with artificial turf may reduce your water usage, it won’t eliminate it completely.

Artificial turf is not water free:

  • For sanitation purposes, water is needed to periodically clean the turf. Chemicals may also be needed occasionally.
  • Because artificial turf can get very hot in direct sunlight, water is sometimes needed to cool the turf before it can be used comfortably.

Artificial turf has potential environmental concerns:

  • Runoff from artificial turf may contain pollutants like heavy metals and chemicals that can reach surface water or groundwater. Results may vary for different artificial turf products.
  • Artificial turf is a synthetic material with a relatively short lifespan ranging from 10-20 years that may eventually end up in landfills.

Trees, shrubs and groundcovers provide shade, absorb carbon dioxide, supply oxygen, reduce soil erosion, give wildlife a home, decrease energy use, reduce storm water runoff and save water.

MYTH: “It takes more water to maintain a pool than it does to maintain a lawn.”

TRUTH: Existing pools do not use as much water as a lawn of the same size. So if you are considering ways to conserve water outside your home, consider removing parts of your lawn and replacing the grass with drought tolerant landscaping. Also, don’t forget to cover your pool – that greatly helps prevent water loss from evaporation.

MYTH: “Bottled water is cleaner and safer to drink than tap water.”

TRUTH: Your tap water is tested in our lab 450 times a day to make sure it meets or exceeds EPA standards for water quality. The EPA standards for tap water are actually higher than the FDA standards for bottled water.

Think you’ve heard every water myth?
Check out this article for more drought myths: http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2015/05/29/10-california-drought-myths-debunked/