Oregon is often thought of as being lush, with plenty of rain, moss, and waterfalls. But our southwest region is actually both hotter and drier than the rest of western Oregon. Precipitation here is also highly seasonal, with long dry summers, exactly when water needs for agriculture and urban users are highest. Our region has also experienced periods of drought, and very low snowfall. The combination of these factors results in low stream flows, and the need to work together to manage water in order to meet all agricultural and urban demands, along with the needs of wildlife. Improving the efficiency with which water is used will be critical to meeting the water needs of our growing population.
Homeowners, urban and rural, have an important role to play in conserving water. For example, in the Medford area, water usage triples in the summer, with the primary culprit being irrigation of our landscapes. Much of this increased demand is tied to the watering of thirsty lawns. From efficient irrigation in the backyard or agricultural field, to water saving fixtures in the home, we all can make a difference. Remember – change starts with you.
In their zest to create the most attractive lawn or garden in this dry environment, well-intended homeowners sometimes contribute to stream pollution by applying too much water to their yards. This extra water then runs into the street, down the storm drain, and in turn into local waterways. Irrigation runoff picks up fertilizer, pesticides, and pet waste in the landscape, and is warmed by the pavement it crosses, degrading its quality along the way. Try these tips to reduce the amount of irrigation needed and to water your landscape strategically to prevent water used on landscapes from ending up as pollution in streams.
7 Tips for Xeriscape and Water Conservation in Your Landscape
Also check out the many helpful resources listed below, including courses from OSU’s Professional and Continuing Education unit:
Introduction to Water-Wise Gardening
Water-Wise Gardening: Choosing the Right Plants
A good irrigation design will apply water evenly, and meet the water needs of the landscape with components that match the size, shape, and plants being watered. For shrub areas, consider drip irrigation. With drip irrigation, water is delivered to plants’ roots, right where it is needed. Additionally, because only areas with plants receive water and very little moisture is lost to evaporation, it is an effective way to meet water needs using much less water. These systems can adapt to what you are growing and expand with your garden through adding and changing the size of emitters utilized.
The Medford Water Commission (MWC) website has considerable information within the conservation section. In addition to links to other sites, here are specific, comprehensive pages on the MWC site:
The City of Ashland’s website includes water conservation information. They also have an extensive plant database, and hundreds of pictures and links to additional websites, like This Waterwise Landscaping feature.
Drought Tolerant Plants for Oregon’s Rogue Valley, which includes tips and a plant list from Shooting Star Nursery.
Urban Living handbook 7 Tips for Xeriscape and Water conservation in Your Home.
Conserving Water in the Garden: Designing and Installing a New Landscape
Conserving Water in the Garden: Landscape and Lawn Care
Mulching Woody Ornamentals with Organic Materials
Courses in OSU Extension’s Professional and Continuing Education unit:
Introduction to WaterWise Gardening
WaterWise Gardening: Choosing the Right Plants
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