River friendly home title graphic
From the bathroom to the backyard, water and fertilizer usage around the home can make the difference between a healthy St. Johns River or a river that's stressed beyond its limits. Help the river by adopting the following practices to make your home and yard
Awaken water awareness Note where, when, and how you use water. Simply by becoming more aware of your daily water use -- brushing your teeth, washing your car, watering your lawn -- you'll find ways to save water and money. You might be surprised to learn that more than half of your water use occurs outdoors.

Love lawns less Lawn areas tend to require more water and fertilizer than other landscape features, often because people have unrealistic ideas and preconceived notions about what their lawns should look like. A mixture of several grass types (including weeds) will increase your lawn's pest resistance and help lessen the need for fertilizers and watering. Also, reduce your lawn size by planting beds with native and Florida-friendly flowers, shrubs or groundcovers.

Be picky about plants Landscape with drought-tolerant native and "Florida-friendly" plants, grouping plants together based on sunlight and watering needs. Mulching helps the soil to retain moisture and reduces weeds, which translates to less watering and less need for herbicides.

Water wisely Evaporation and waste will be minimized if you water in the early morning or early evening. Water no more than two times a week in the spring and summer and less in the winter. Apply up to three quarters of an inch of water to ensure healthy, drought tolerant root systems. A heavy rain may eliminate the need for watering for up to two weeks.

Photos of yard sprinkler, books and a home
Sprinkle specifically Install water-efficient sprinklers and a rain sensor switch to override your system when it rains. Check timing device settings regularly. Install soaker hoses or micro-irrigation systems for planting beds with shrubs and flowers. Refrain from watering sidewalks and driveways.

Buzz off Avoid buzz-cutting your lawn by raising your lawn mower blade to its highest setting; this encourages roots to grow deeper and grass blades to hold moisture longer than a closely clipped lawn.

Compost completely There is little in the way of a better fertilizer at any price than homemade compost. Organic substances, including yard wastes, can be recycled in compost heaps; the resulting material is an excellent soil amendment and conditioner.

Fertilize frugally It is wasteful and expensive to fertilize automatically at certain times of the year. Give nature a chance and fertilize only according to need. Planting the right plants in the right places practically eliminates the need for supplemental feedings.

Shower shorter Keep showers under five minutes and install low-flow showerheads. Update your hardware. Older fixtures deliver as much as eight gallons per minute, while new showerheads deliver 2.5 gallons per minute.

Look for leaks A leaky toilet tank can waste 200 gallons of water per day. How to detect leaks? Remove the lid from the tank, along with any colored cleaning agents, and flush to clear water in the bowl before adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank. If color appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, replace worn, corroded, or bent parts to correct the leak.

Meet your meter Check to see if you have a leak in your home by reading your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the readings differ, you have a leak. If you have a well, listen to hear if the pump kicks on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.

Procrastinate, procrastinate Put off running the dishwasher until it is fully loaded. Likewise with the clothes washer, making sure to set it to the appropriate water level for the size of each load.

Sponsors graphic
The Water's Journey: The River Returns film
is an original film by Karst Productions, Inc.
The River Returns web documentary, Copyright © Fusionspark Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Photos © 2005 Russell Sparkman/Fusionspark Media, Inc., unless otherwise noted.