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Water slows to a trickle in place on Rickreall Creek as it flows through Dallas. Rickreall Creek feeds Mercer Reservoir, the city's water supply.


DALLAS — Since declaring stage one drought conditions on July 7, the city of Dallas has reduced its water use in it parks by 95%, and Dallas School District and Polk County have reduced use by at least 50%.

Now, the city is asking residents and businesses to do their part in the effort to conserve water.

“Due to severe drought conditions, including lower than average precipitation and higher than average temperatures, the city of Dallas is entering into stage one drought conditions and ask all of our water customers to voluntarily conserve and reduce your water use,” read an announcement of drought conditions going into effect.

City Manager Brian Latta said the city’s public works crews delivered cards to all restaurants to place on tables telling customers that water will be served only by request.

“I’ve been to a restaurant since then and I didn’t get served my water, and I was very proud,” Latta said Monday during the Dallas City Council meeting. “As I’ve been out talking to people, a lot of people are concerned about the and they mention that they are doing their part, so I think that we will be in a good place.”

The city’s water supply comes from Mercer Reservoir located on Rickreall Creek. The reservoir stopped overflowing the spillway about two weeks ahead of schedule, which was the trigger for declaring drought conditions.

The city is monitoring the drop in supply weekly.

“Irrigation is an area where we can make a huge difference,” Latta said. “The city, county and schools will be reducing our irrigation by 50%, and we ask others in the community to follow our lead.”

Oregon State University Extension Office has information on how to reduce water use on lawns and landscapes in an article titled “Conserving water in your yard and garden.”

Tips to reduce water use

Water wisely

Water loss typically occurs in two ways:

• Water is applied too rapidly and runs off the soil surface rather than soaking into the soil.

• Water is applied to bare soil surfaces and evaporates.

“Applying the right amount of water, at the right time, and in the right way is the most important thing you can do to conserve water,” the article reads. “Choose the most appropriate irrigation system. Wise watering involves applying water slowly, deeply, infrequently, and directly to the root system.”

Tree, shrub, and flowerbeds, as well as vegetable gardens are most effectively irrigated with drip or trickle systems.

For trees or large shrubs, you will need to move the hose around, or apply water below the soil surface. One way of doing this is punching holes in coffee cans or juice containers and placing them 6 to 12 inches into the soil. Fill them with water and it will slowly seep into the soil.

“Hose-end attached sprinklers are much less efficient because they lose water to evaporation and may apply water to areas where it is not needed. In some cases, like lawns, sprinklers might be the only alternative,” the article read. “Automated sprinkler systems are especially prone to encouraging waste and require proper attention and management. Studies show that people with automated underground irrigation systems use up to twice as much water as those watering manually with hoses and sprinklers.”

If you have an automated system, maintain it to reduce waste.

“Repair or replace broken or damaged nozzles or heads, ensure that the timing mechanism and rainfall shutoffs are working, and make sure you know how much water is being applied,” the article read. “Check your system weekly and adjust the days and run times as needed to avoid overwatering.”

Water infrequently and deeply

Where to water: The majority of feeder roots (those that take up water and nutrients from the soil) are in the top 12 inches of soil and extend as much as one and one half times past the canopy diameter of tree and shrubs . Apply water in this area.

Preparation for drought is key. OSU Extension recommends watering plants infrequently and deeply prior to and during drought.

“By thoroughly soaking the root zone, you will encourage roots to develop deep in the soil, where moisture is held for a long time. These deep roots will help the plant endure drought better,” the article read. “Frequent, shallow watering encourages plants to develop shallow root systems, which makes them susceptible to even moderate water shortages.”

Water at night or in early morning

Less water is lost to evaporation during times when the temperatures are lower, humidity is higher and the air is calmer.

Watering priorities

Newly planted trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and lawns need water the most.

“Newly established plants require more water than established plantings because the root systems are shallow,” the article read. “It may be unavoidable, but consider delaying new plantings during drought periods to help conserve water.”

For established landscapes, consider strategically watering. Select important areas within your landscape to water regularly. Allow peripheral areas of your lawn, or those that aren’t highly visible, to go dormant by watering less.

Trees: Mature trees usually receive supplemental water when you water shrubs or lawn areas. If you water your shrubs less and let your lawn go dormant during times of water restrictions, you might want to water your trees deeply every two weeks or so. Prematurely shedding leaves are a sign of drought stress.

If your trees begin dropping leaves, increase your watering frequency. Shrubs: Well-established, healthy shrubs contribute significantly to the overall landscape. These plants should be second in priority

Lawns: In general, the healthier the turf is when drought stress begins, the longer it will stay green and the better it will weather the drought. People often water lawns more than necessary.

“Instead of following a predetermined watering schedule, observe your turf and check the soil moisture regularly. You then can alter your watering schedule to better meet the needs of your lawn,” the article read. “The key is to apply only as much water as the turf actually requires.”

For more detailed information: www.catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em9125.pdf.

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