Watering Trees with Grey Water During a Drought

When a region enters into a drought situation the consumption of potable water must be reduced to accommodate the dropping water supply. One of the first areas of restriction is usually in the area of landscape irrigation which includes lawn, shrubs, flowers and trees. The most difficult and expensive of these landscape elements to replace are trees. Instead of allowing valuable trees to die many homeowners are utilizing on-site grey water systems to water their trees with grey water produced daily from indoor showers.

California is in the middle of a crippling drought

California is in the fourth year of a historic drought that the state has not seen the likes of since 1977. The state has been forced to cut back on their water by at least 25%, with more water restrictions likely to follow. Communities all over the state, from farming communities to the glamorous Beverly Hills have been forced to allow their lawns and gardens to grow dry and brown. Plants and trees have to go without water in order to conserve water and prolong the state’s quickly dwindling supply of water. Governor Jerry Brown has issued several water restriction limits over the past few months, and has already told California residents that it has not been enough to curb the damaging effects of the drought on the state. In order to comply with Brown’s water restrictions, residents have shut off their sprinklers or drastically reduced the amount of time they are watering plants, lawns, and trees. While this has helped in combating the drought, it has been severely destructive to the plant life, most especially to trees. Arborists and other agricultural experts have said that the drought and its consequences have been critically damaging the stability of the countless trees in urban and rural areas of the state, putting them at a much higher risk of falling, leading to both risk of injury, and structural damages.

Dangers of drought stricken trees

Parks, residents, and cities have been trying to be responsible with their dwindling water allotments, and have cut the water to any and all greenery and plant life, including trees. However, as the water supply for trees continue to decrease, the risk of them dying, and becoming structurally unsound increases. Trees and other plants cannot adjust to a limited water supply or how much water they require. As trees continue to thirst for water, their bases become weaker, unable to hold their weight, and can collapse onto whatever is around them such as buildings, cars, and people. It has been reported through arborists and other agricultural experts that around 12 million trees have already died due to the drought, which is much higher rate than a normal year. Trees are also at a much higher risk for illness when they have been lacking water for an extended period of time which can spread to other healthy trees, creating another difficult problem for arborists. The risks for trees becoming infested with bark beetles and other burrowing, invasive creates also drastically increases, which can effect other plants around the trees. On top of all of this, the state faces the chances of a strong and powerful El Niño storm, which in the current drought, can wash away trees that are barely standing in the ground, increasing the risks of tree related injuries and damages. Knowing all of this, how can the state prepare itself, and combat these threats while at the same time being water conscious?

How you can take care of your trees, and be a responsible water consumer at the same time

It may seem counter-intuitive to water your trees while also being water conscious, but by following these tips, you can protect and save your trees while following designated water restrictions. If you have new, younger trees, it is important that you water them with at least five to ten gallons of water each week. If you are in a cooler weather season, you can water your trees with less water, on the five-gallon end, than when you are in a warmer weather season, where you should use closer to ten gallons. Depending on what part of the state you are in, your allotted watering days will be different, but use that day to make sure that your young trees get the minimum water they require to stay alive through the drought. Mature trees, on the other hand, do not need quite as much water as young trees. They can survive the drought with a deep watering throughout their entire canopy at the minimum of every two to three weeks. You do not need to worry about using your water allotment on your mature trees each week, rather you can save more water by only watering them twice a month or so. To ensure that you waste no water, you should try and change your irrigation system to a drip, low flow, or micro spray system that will use less water when watering your plants and trees. You can also try and save the water you use by incorporating a grey water irrigation system, there are simple solutions like ShowerSpring that sends shower water directly to the landscape without any plumbing required or complex systems like Flotender and GreyLink that capture grey water from all the greywater fixtures in a home and then filter, pressurize, and pump the recycled greywater to anywhere in the landscape. One final helpful tip in prevent water waste is to place mulch around the base of your tree around 4-6 inches from the base of your tree trunk. This will help ensure that when you do water your trees the water does not evaporate quickly, but instead gets absorbed into the soil and into the tree’s roots.

Tips for specialty trees

Not all trees are equal in terms of water needs and since some trees are more water sensitive and valuable than others, owners will want to pay more attention to them. Ornamental trees are often expensive, and the most prized among people’s gardens. Owners should try and space watering apart two weeks during the spring and summer, in order to give the trees the best chance at surviving the heat of summer. Trees can typically survive one season with only one or two deep waterings, but they cannot survive more than that.

Fruit and nut trees are an important resource in California, and provide a large investment for farmers and casual owners alike. Owners must expect to have a decreased crop production from your fruit or nut trees, but can work to keep them alive until the drought is resolved. Fruit trees require adequate water from the time that they bloom until the time of the harvest. For citrus trees, a California staple, it is crucial to ensure that they have adequate soil moisture during the spring season, and a steady water supply during the summer and fall. This will only produce an adequate and small crop, however. Many agricultural experts say that with drought conditions continuing, it may be possible to keep the fruit and nut trees alive, albeit but with no crop production.