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Gardeners reminded to water with care

12 January 2006

Gardeners reminded to water with care

In a campaign starting this week, Greater Wellington Regional Council is reminding gardeners to water with care for the environment, as well as their plants.

The reminder comes as water supply to the region's four cities reached its highest level for the summer to date on Tuesday (10 January), equivalent to 530 litres per resident. Daily water supply typically averages just over 400 litres per person.

Much of the water supply comes from rivers, which rely on rainfall. The combination of long hot days and little rain can cause water use to rise by up to 50 percent. This places a heavy burden on rivers and can lead to supply difficulties. Low rainfall during winter and spring has left water levels in local rivers well below normal heading into mid summer.

Rex Kirton, chairman of Greater Wellington's Utility Services Committee, said careful watering of gardens was the key to easing the demands placed on the region's rivers and its supply system in the coming weeks.

"Gardening is typically the single biggest use for water by households in mid summer. Running a sprinkler for an hour can use as much water as a family of four uses on a winter's day, so careful watering can make a big difference."

Cr Kirton stressed that gardeners weren't being asked to go without.

"We don't expect people to stop watering. We're simply asking them to check whether their garden needs water first and if it does, to control the flow so the water goes only where it's needed."

Gardeners are being asked to take a few easy measures to avoid wasteful watering.

1. Check soil moisture before watering. If soil is moist at a depth of 10 centimetres you don’t need to water. Check once or twice a week with a trowel in dry weather.
2. Aim to water only around the roots of ornamental plants, at a rate the soil can absorb. If watering runs straight off the soil surface or sprays fences, driveways and footpaths, it’s wasted.
3. Spread mulch – such as bark or compost - on garden beds. This helps protect soil from baking hard and slows moisture loss by evaporation. Mulch should only be spread on well watered soil.
4. If using a portable sprinkler, 30-minute watering sessions should be enough for established plants, as long as the water can soak into the ground.
Cr Kirton said the campaign aimed to encourage careful watering whether or not this summer proved to be a very dry one.

“If more gardeners adopt good watering habits it’ll help to minimise the resources needed to supply water every summer. It could also help to delay the next major investment in supply capacity, at a sizeable saving to the community.”

Greater Wellington’s water conservation advice is part of its “Be the Difference” programme, promoting small changes that individuals can make to help improve the region’s environment. Advertising will appear in community newspapers and on radio. It is supported by Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt, and Wellington city councils and is scheduled to run from 9 January until early March.

Local bylaws governing the use of water for gardening currently apply across the region. Bylaw conditions vary by area so residents should contact their local council for details. To find out more about water-wise gardening and watering restrictions go to www.bethedifference.gw.govt.nz


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