SPRING CREEK — With the rising cost of water in Spring Creek, conserving it means saving dollars as well.
Summer is quickly approaching and with it, more water usage.
“Historically, Spring Creek has used a great deal more water in the summer,” said Wendy Barnett of Utilities Inc., the parent company of Spring Creek Utilities.
In fact, Barnett estimates the usage is nine times higher during summer months than winter.
“The increase is almost all attributable to outdoor use,” Barnett said.
According to Todd Shouse, owner of landscaping company Team Green, high watering costs for lawns and plants is partly a result of bigger lawns as compared with those in Elko.
When it comes to saving water, two solutions could make a huge difference to the water bill: xeriscaping and zero-scaping.
This kind of landscaping is known as water-wise or water-smart gardening and is derived from the Greek word xeros, meaning dry. According to a 2005 publication by the Oregon State University Extension Service called “An Introduction to Xeriscaping in the High Desert,” there are seven principals to xeriscaping: planning and design, zoning plants, soil, efficient irrigation, turf and turf alternatives, mulching and maintenance.
Xeriscaping involves choosing plants that work for an area’s climate zone, even if they aren’t natural. It uses a combination of effective irrigation practices and plants and turf requiring less water.
Shouse, who has been in the nursery business for 30 years, said trees vary in how much water they require.
“If you stay with your hard-wooded trees, such as ash, maple, and honey locust, those are going to be less water users,” Shouse said.
Soft-wooded trees such as poplars and willows, while providing a good cooling effect, are also big water-users, he said.
Utilities Inc. has a Water Conservation Plan developed by the University of Nevada, Reno. The plan includes a list of flowers, trees and grasses that conserve water.
“It’s not about not using water,” Barnett said. “It’s about using water wisely… It’s about grouping plants together.”
But there’s more to saving water than just the plants, there’s also how they are cared for.
“Proper watering, whether you have a system or not, and fertilization, is important,” Shouse said.
Watering grass with moisture-sensing and water-efficient sprinkler systems will help decrease water usage. The water-efficient systems use fewer gallons per minute.
“That allows the water to soak in, rather than saturating the surface and running off,” Shouse said.
Although landscaping projects can cost a bundle, the savings will be seen in the long-term. In Spring Creek, since the lots are bigger, a water system may cost less per square foot, Shouse said.
“There’s a lot of possible benefits from xeriscaping,” Barnett said. “It actually increases the value of your home.”
While often confused with xeriscaping, this process consists mostly of hard surfaces, such as rock. Zero-scaping uses plants to accent it.
“Most of the time, it’s a combination of different colors of rock to make a design to it,” Shouse said.
Team Green has done more of this type of landscaping recently in Spring Creek, and gets rocks in from different suppliers.
“We try to do a lot of different stuff with rock, different textures and colors, and still try to use plant material in them,” Shouse said.
Mow strip is used to define borders with rock. The upfront cost of rocks is close to that of sod, Shouse said.
“It’s the maintenance cost where you’re going to see a big difference,” he said.
Zero-scaping isn’t always appealing to Spring Creek residents because they enjoy grass, Shouse said. Another shortfall is that if it isn’t done properly, weeds will sprout up.
“A lot of people would rather mow the lawn than pull weeds,” Shouse said.
The Spring Creek Utilities Co. office is currently looking at landscaping options for its office.
“There’ll be some rock involved, but we really want to show that xeriscaping does include flowers,” Barnett said.
The company hopes to educate the public about xeriscaping and water-saving options. Its Water Conservation Plan, implemented in August 2012, is available online at www.uiwater.com.