Where’s the Water?

Where’s the Water?

Where’s the Water?

  • Posted by Barrington Hills
  • On June 18, 2021
Homeowners are expressing concerns about the low stream and lake levels around our area, and indeed, we are about 6 inches behind normal precipitation levels in Lake and McHenry Counties.

Our area depends largely on well water tapping groundwater from the shallow sand and gravel aquifers.  Groundwater also provides a “base flow” to our lakes and streams.  Our streams and lakes normally are also replenished by stormwaters directed to them by the infrastructure in our larger villages, or from runoff from our yards, streets, and other paved areas.  No rain, no stormwater, no runoff, and no quick recharge of our shallow aquifers.  Fortunately, given the ample rainfall of the last few years, our aquifers were in good shape prior to the current drought.

As homeowners turn on their faucets or sprinklers to water their vegetables, flowers, bushes and trees, we use a lot of water.  It’s like there are hundreds of straws dipping into the same drink glass.  We can all be more mindful about how much water our properties need, and how to water most effectively.

Did You Know?
Watering one inch of water on a one-acre yard consumes 26,000 gallons of water (more than a standard 16′ x 32′ swimming pool)!

Here are some lawn watering and mowing Best Practices:
1.  Let your lawn tell you when it’s thirsty
Watering needs are determined by a combination of factors including grass type, soil type, drainage and exposure to sun and shade.  Do the Walk Test to determine when your lawn needs water.  Does your grass stand up straight after being walked on?  If not, your lawn is thirsty.  Walk across your lawn and look back.  If you can still see your footprints after a few minutes, your grass needs water.

2.  Water your lawn deeply but infrequently to prevent “shallow root syndrome”
Deep watering encourages strong, deep roots, which helps the lawn withstand drought and disease.  Healthy lawns generally need only one inch of water per week.  Let the lawn dry out before watering again – infrequent watering with a good soak is best.

3.  EPA suggests that in a dry spell, you can allow an established lawn to go dormant.
Water just once a month and brown areas of the lawn will bounce back in the fall.

4. Keep your grass 3 inches tall.
Taller grass has deeper, healthier roots.  It is also denser and naturally crowds out weeds and shades the soil so it retains moisture.  When your grass is 3 1/2 or 4 inches tall, mow it down to 3″. One source noted that at 3″ tall, most grasses get the energy they need to grow from the sun.  Shorter than 3″, and the grass takes more energy from the roots, which stymies their development.

5. Mow with a sharp mower blade.
Dull blades rip and tear your lawn instead of cutting it, causing disease, serious stress and damage.  Look closely at a blade of your grass – if the top edge is frayed and shows split ends, your blade or your landscaper’s mower blades are dull and causing damage to the grass.  Sharpen them.

6. Mow frequently enough so that you cut no more than 1/3 of the grass height at once.
Frequent mowing causes the least stress to the grass.  Mow often enough that you never remove more than an inch, otherwise you will shock your lawn and weaken its resistance to drought, weeds and disease.  If the height of your lawn gets very long, cut it down to the proper height in stages, no more than 1/3 of the total height at a time.

7. Use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn.
Mulching mowers create fine grass clippings that break down and add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.  Grass clippings are approximately 85% water, so they decompose quickly and will not smother your lawn.  Grass clippings are a free and easy way to provide the equivalent of one regular fertilizer application each year, and will not cause thatch (thatch is an indicator of too much fertilizer).

8. Mow when the lawn is dry.
If the lawn is wet, the mower blades can’t cut the grass cleanly and it can create an opportunity for disease to spread.  Mowing a wet lawn also causes grass clippings to clump and decompose more slowly.  It can also compact the soil and create ruts.

9. Water your lawn at dawn (or as close to dawn as you can)
Watering at daybreak is about 10 times more effective and it helps to prevent the growth of fungus.

10.  When soil is dry or compacted, it won’t absorb water quickly. 
If water puddles, stop watering a while and then restart so the water has time to soak in.

11. Water plants, not pavement.
A sprinkler that waters the street or the sidewalk is wasteful.  Adjust the water pressure on the sprinkler so the spray doesn’t overshoot the lawn. Avoid sprinklers that produce a fine mist that easily evaporates and blows off target.

12. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation on beds
They can save 50 percent or more compared with sprinklers.

Do take care of trees, especially newly planted ones.  Lake Zurich, which has invested in planting new trees in town, has asked those that have received a new tree.  This is good advice for all: The Village of Lake Zurich Tree Commission and Forestry staff request that residents that have had a new tree planted this past spring assist village staff with watering the newly planted tree(s) by filling the village supplied watering bag following the instructions that were provided at the time of the tree planting.
Residents that received a new tree in the past few years continue to water these trees during these extreme drought conditions. Please maintain an area of mulch approximately 2″ thick in the area around the base of the tree, this will assist with keeping the ground from drying out after watering.
Proper mulching instructions can be found on the village website (LINK). Proper watering of the trees that were planted in the recent past should be done by turning the hose on a trickle and placing at the base of the tree. This needs to be done once a week for approximately 2 hours or as long as it takes to saturate the ground surrounding the tree. Finally, do abide by local watering restrictions, even if you have a private well.
People are more important than lawns.  If your town has implemented a watering ban, be sure to comply with the regulations.  (Private wells and municipal wells often draw from the same groundwater sources. It’s that many straws in the same drink phenomenon.)

(Thanks to the North and South Rivers Watershed Association and the EPA for many of the pointers.)
Sealcoating Your Driveway this Summer?1.  Ask for Latex or Asphalt Emulsion Sealants
2. All driveway sealants are not the same.  Some can be hazardous to your family’s health.
3. Avoid products with the words:  coal tar, refined tar, refined coal tar pitch, coal tar pitch volatiles, RT-12, pyrolized fuel oil.  These can all have elevated levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Prolonged exposure is hazardous to humans, animals and aquatic life.
4.  Sealers don’t stay on the driveway.  Sealant particles can flake off with vehicle and foot traffic and in sunlight.  Particles can blow away or wash into ponds and streams with stormwater.   High PAH dust can be tracked into homes by people and pets, where potentially carcinogenic dust and
PAHs can be inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin.
5. For more information, go to www.bacog.org/coal-tar/
Saving Our Waters, Yard by Yard, Together!
This past year, the Barrington Area Community Foundation (BACF) funded a grant for a cooperative project among the Citizens for Conservation (CFC), Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT), and the Flint Creek/Spring Creek Watersheds Partnership (FC/SCWP) to create a robust native plant buffer along the east bank of Flint Creek in the Pederson Preserve, across Lake Cook Road from the High School.  The buffer is a “demonstration project’; to show how the native plantings can stabilize the stream bank and present an example of how attractive a stream buffer can be. 

What is a “buffer”?  It’s a strip of natural vegetation along the bank of a stream, lake, pond or other water body that separates the water from developed areas such as lawns, buildings, roads, driveways, or sidewalks.

The brochure is available for download, and a copy has been attached to the email that contains this News Notes.  Villages, townships, garden clubs and conservation organizations are free to share it.  BACT and CFC will also be making the brochure available, and the Watersheds Partnership has it available for download on its website, HERE.

Winter is a great time for planning.  Perhaps a waterside buffer can be in YOUR future too!
Remember:  Whatever Happens to Our Water, Happens to Us
Copyright © 2020 Flint Creek/Spring Creek Watersheds Partnership, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Flint Creek/Spring Creek Watersheds Partnership, c/o CFC, 459 West Hwy 22, Barrington, IL 60010