Water wise for a hot summer

Date: 23/10/2009

As a hot and dry summer approaches, a University of Western Sydney water expert is urging people to be clever in the way they garden to help conserve water supplies.

Associate Professor Basant Maheshwari from the UWS School of Natural Sciences and Co-operative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures says although plants need more care over summer, many people make the mistake of over watering their gardens when the mercury rises.

"A UWS and Sydney Water study found people who hand watered their gardens actually over-water their plants up to 50 per cent," says Associate Professor Maheshwari.

"A couple of buckets a household doesn't seem like much, but with around one million homes in Sydney it adds up, and we need to make sure we are clever in the way we use our water."

Associate Professor Maheshwari says it's important to understand roughly how much water your plants need, and to fine tune the amount of water you apply depending on the weather conditions and plant appearance.

"And there are other simple steps that people can take, such as using mulch around trees to reduce evaporation, and digging small holes to water the garden from deep in the soil, so that the water is used as effectively as possible," he says.

Associate Professor Maheshwari says summer is a good time for people to consider using greywater from their kitchens and washing machines, but it's important for people to use it in a way so that it doesn't affect soil.

Uthpala Pinto from the UWS School of Natural Sciences studied home gardens across Western Sydney and found the continuous use of greywater can harm the top layer of soil.

"My study indicated that the continuous use of greywater increased the pH and salinity in soil, and prolonged use of grey water has the potential to render some soils unusable in the future," Mr Pinto says.

"But when the gardens were irrigated alternatively with greywater and fresh water, any problem with the use of grey water was minimised."

Associate Professor Maheshwari says with temperatures reaching 36 degrees in Penrith this week, it's time for people to change their habits.

"Grass and lawns use a lot of water to remain lush and green during summer, but the easiest way to retain soil quality and reduce evaporation is to let the grass grow longer," he says.

"It may be anathema to some people, but having a lawn that isn't perfectly manicured over summer is actually good for the environment and good for the garden in the long run.

Associate Professor Maheshwari says people should consider the following simple steps to get the most out of their water and gardens over summer.

* Water the garden in the evening or early in the morning.
* Water the roots and soil around plants rather than spraying the leaves and plants directly.
* Use dead mulch on lawns to add nutrients and reduce evaporation.
* Water level gardens less often but for longer periods to stimulate deeper roots.
* Avoid cutting lawns too short.
* Try slow growing, water saving varieties of grass like Palmetto.
* Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
* Try to wash you car on your lawn.

"By following simple steps like this, everyone in Greater Western Sydney can ensure their garden is healthy and strong, without wasting water in the process," says Associate Professor Maheshwari.

Associate Professor Maheshwari will lead a public forum convened by UWS and the CRC for Irrigation Futures to look at the challenges of balancing the water needs of the environment, agriculture, industry and the community.

WHAT: "Water in Western Sydney: A vital link for healthy places and healthy people" public forum
WHEN: 9:30am to 1:00pm, Saturday 7 November 2009
WHERE: The Nepean Room, Penrith City Council, 601 High Street, Penrith
COST: FREE (morning tea and lunch will be provided)
Registration is encouraged. To secure a place visit:
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/78711/wiser-community-forum or contact Regan Jenkins ph 02 4570 1710 r.jenkins@uws.edu.au
More information: http://www.irrigationfutures.org.au/wiser

To arrange a media interview with Associate Professor Maheshwari please contact Mark Smith (UWS Media) on 0404 016 236.



Media Officer

Mark Smith
02 9678 7075, 0404 016 236