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Donala Water & Sanitation District


(719)488-3603     WWW.DONALAWATER.OG     JULY 2012


As of mid-June this has been an interesting, hot and dry year.  As of the end of May we have provided over 17 million more gallons of water to our customers than the same time last year (19% more).  The golf course has used 1.2 million gallons (9% more).  June is shaping up to be even worse.  Fortunately, with our system connecting to Colorado Springs we are able to utilize the best of both supplies – drought affected renewable water through CSU, and non-affected ground water from our wells. 

The drought has definitely affected our ranch water supply.  The run off from Mt. Massive is less than half the norm.  Therefore, we will not get our full allotment this year and we’ll be relying even more on the wells.

Dozens of customers used more than 30,000 gallons in May, 53 used more than 40,000, and there were some that used over 60,000.   That is way too much water and hopefully these folks abided by the water restrictions in June.  Presumably they are “impressed” by their water bills as well.

We have issued several warning letters to customers not abiding by the restrictions.  We will follow those up with fines if necessary.  Our thanks to the residents who have called to notify us of a neighboring violator.  We cannot be the “water police” to the extent we would like, and we appreciate the help.   

HAND WATERING – There seems to be some confusion on the definition of “hand watering” which is allowed at any time.  The idea is to allow for spot watering of trees, plants and particularly distressed areas of landscaping.  However, hand watering does not mean using a sprinkler on the end of a hose for an extended period of time.  The premise is that if the area is so dry that it needs to be watered during “off” hours or days, it probably deserves personal attention. 



We have had inquiries about incentives for customers who invest in water-friendly landscaping.  The biggest incentive we offer is the service of Susan McLean, our Conservation Manager.  She has provided thousands of dollars’ worth of advice and design for the nominal fee of $50-$150 (full yard).   Many Donala customers have taken the xeriscape route.  Whether with Susan’s help or not, dozens of our customers are converting their water-intensive bluegrass to beautiful conservation emphasized landscaping.  Congratulations! Our hope is that neighbors will see the effort and realize that not only will such an investment conserve water; it will enhance your real estate value.  Put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes.  Would you want to buy a home surrounded in Kentucky bluegrass with a very high annual water bill, or the home next door with a beautiful array of plants, landscape materials (and maybe a little grass), and a much lower monthly maintenance cost?

As an additional incentive we are announcing the annual Donala water-wise landscape award program.  A landscape committee will select the top three yards each year for the award.  Emphasis will be on water conservation and beauty.  Finalists will be interviewed to determine when the work was done and compare water use before and after the landscape project.  Winners will be awarded:

Third place winner:  Water usage credit on one month’s bill

Second place winner:  Water usage credit on two month’s bill

First place winner:  Water usage credit on three month’s bill



An early, dry spring followed by weeks of drying summer winds has crisped many Donala bluegrass lawns.  But why do some lawns look so bad while others seem to weather our weather very well?  The difference in appearances between lawns could be due to cultural practices.

Tips for a greener bluegrass lawn:

  • Core aerate spring and fall to promote better air circulation and water penetration in turf.
  • Sharpen lawn mower blades often.  Dull blades tear the grass and create unattractive brown edges at the top of the grass.
  • When mowing, remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time.  Keep your lawn around 3 inches high so grass blades                    can provide shade for grass roots.
  • Use balanced fertilizers instead of high nitrogen fertilizers to promote better overall growth, and stronger root systems.  Do not fertilize during the heat of July.
  • Water more deeply, less frequently (2-3 times a week is ideal) to promote deeper, more drought resistant root systems
  • Accept a less than perfect lawn during the heat of summer when bluegrass goes dormant.  It will recover and green up in fall when temperatures cool. You do not need to water more when bluegrass is dormant.
  • Tune up your sprinkler system to make sure it is operating efficiently.

If you are following all the above practices and your lawn still looks brown, sparse or patchy, it may be the victim of improper installation.  Many Donala lawns suffer from poor soil preparation before seeding or sodding was done.  These lawns can be kept alive with frequent applications of fertilizer and water, and they can be over-seeded again and again, but they will be expensive to maintain and will never be drought tolerant or able to weather our climate well.  It’s a tough choice, but sometimes the best thing to do is to start over again.  Amend the soil with 3-5 cubic yards of organic material (compost, not topsoil) per 1000 feet of planting area tilled 6-12 inches deep into the planting area before the new lawn goes in.  The simple act of tilling and amending the soil ensures optimum water penetration and retention, nutrition for the grass plants, and deep grass root development, producing a healthy turf that can withstand the rigors of our climate.



The answer is, it depends.  All grass varieties have different advantages and disadvantages, and no single grass is suited to all site conditions and uses in the landscape.  To quote a Colorado State University publication, “The real choice for water conservation is not to find alternative grasses, but to limit lawn areas to those that are needed.  If a lawn serves no purpose, consider mulching or other plantings that require less water”.   If there is an area where grass is appropriate, consider the following when matching grass species to your site’s conditions and use.

Kentucky Bluegrass:  A cool season sod former, it needs mowing to 3 inches. Requires 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water per week during a long growing season.  However, recent field studies by CSU have shown that if bluegrass is grown on  properly prepared soil, it will perform well with one half of the recommended rate of supplemental irrigation, suggesting that it is not the Kentucky Bluegrass that demands heavy irrigation but the gardener’s management style.  Needs spring and fall fertilization unless grass clippings are left on the lawn.  Somewhat disease and insect prone.  Best in sun, poor performer in shade. Very drought tolerant and tolerant of foot traffic: excellent play surface for children.

Turf-Type Tall Fescue: A cool season bunch grass. Mow to 3 inches. May require more frequent mowing that bluegrass, and mower blades may need sharpening more often.  Formerly a pasture grass, selectively bred to improve characteristics for lawn use.  Resulting turf-type tall fescues often touted as drought resistant lawn grasses because in well-drained soils roots develop deeply and can access water deeper in the soil that other grasses, sometimes resulting in water saving over bluegrass. However, where soil is shallow, gravelly or consists of heavy clays (much of Donala is like this) or where soil is poorly prepared before planting, deep root development is not possible, producing turf type fescue lawns that use more water than bluegrass!  Fall fertilization needed.  Does well in part-sun or shade.  Few disease and insect problems. Cannot go dormant in summer like bluegrass, is not drought tolerant and requires water during dry spells.  Wear-tolerant, but heavy use by pets or children produce worn areas that require over-seeding.

If you’d like to discuss different grass species or turf issues in Donala, call Susan at 488-3606.

Remember, selecting the proper grass for the lawns’ intended use and for the site is the second step toward creating a lawn. Turf grass lawns are relatively moisture intensive, so the first step in creating a lawn is to limit the size of the lawn to an area that has a purpose. If the only time you walk on it is when you mow it, do you really need it?