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Residents slowly begin to conserve water

Ron Carnell flags a defective sprinkler head that will be replaced. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
At top, this was the scene around Park Rapids Saturday morning. After getting three-quarters of an inch of rain the night before, residents were still using their irrigation systems. In the lower photo is a defective sprinkler head that needs repair and is leaking. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

As Park Rapids heads into its second week of a water prohibition campaign, city officials want to make sure residents are getting the message to cut back watering.

City wells contaminated with nitrates from years of fertilizing surrounding farm fields have left Park Rapids with two uncontaminated wells that can't keep abreast of water needs.

Long-term solutions are needed and as the city searches for those, short-term measures must suffice, officials determined last week in implementing a watering ban.

But Saturday morning, after the city had three-quarters of an inch of rain overnight and the ban was in effect, sprinkler systems all over town were going off.

The city has passed a resolution banning lawn watering all but 20 minutes a day Mondays and Thursdays.

People are overestimating the amount of water their lawns need this time of year, says an irrigation expert who offered his services to the city and his customers.

"The grass is already green," said Ron Soukup. "It doesn't need constant watering."

Soukup and his crews at Headwaters Irrigation immediately sprang into action last week, offering to reset customers' timers on irrigation systems.

"Every customer could re-program them but we're happy to help," said service technician Ron Carnell.

And Michael Raidt said a poorly working sprinkler system uses much more water than it needs to.

Check for faulty sprinkler heads or water bubbles seeping from underground, sure signs something is amiss.

"Oh yeah, we've gotten quite a few calls," Raidt said Monday.

"We've been offering conservation-type advice for years," Soukup said. "Rain sensors can interrupt sprinkling during a wet cycle or rainfall. It's actually a state law. All new sprinkler systems need to have those installed. That's from back in '91 so it's been around for a few years."

But Soukup said there's a variety of things homeowners can do to limit the amount of water they apply to their lawns. "Spray nozzles reduce the amount of water application by about 40 percent while still maintaining green grass, which is ultimately what people want."

It's a rotary nozzle placed on a spray that reduces the water usage while maintaining quality turf, he said. There are also smart controllers on the market which water based on ET rates.

Evapotranspiration is a science that determines the plant only needs so much water, Soukup said, "and this time of year we don't need as much water as we think we do."

It's still the start of the growing season, so grass greens up very quickly without needing a lot of water, he maintains. Depending on soil types, the Monday-Thursday schedule works just fine to maintain lawn health.

"That should be good for most turfs in the area," Soukup said. "We support what the city is doing as far as conservation. There are products for the amount of irrigations systems in the city of Park Rapids. We're here to help."

And Soukup said agricultural applicators have the same water conservation products available to both farms and golf courses, both massive consumers of water.

"If a system is well-designed, it can pull water for a very short time and still maintain a very healthy turf."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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