Water use up, lawns still brown

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By DIANA OLESZCZUK

Sprinklers were on high all last weekend, as Oak Park and River Forest homeowners tried to prevent green lawns from turning brown under the endless sunshine and high temps of June. The result was high water consumption, according to the villages' public works departments.

Oak Park, which usually consumes about 5 to 6 million gallons of water per day, used upwards of 8-9 million gallons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to John Wielebnicki, director of public works. River Forest consumed over 3 million gallons each of the three days, according to Phil Cotter, assistant director of public works. "That's almost double what we did last year," Cotter said.

But Oak Park's outflow wasn't exceptional for this time of year, Wielebnicki said. "I think it's because we've had a number of hot days," he said. "It's higher than normal but not unusual."

Water consumption always goes up during hot weather and spikes on weekends,

Wielebnicki said. Weekends mean that more people are using water in the house and hot weather means that people use sprinklers, pools or showers to cool off themselves?#34;and their lawns.

If your lawn is starting to go tan, here's advice from John Seaton, manager of conservatory operations for the Park District of Oak Park.

He recommends watering lawns a half-inch every other day during the early morning or on cloudy days. Why early morning? About a third of the water will evaporate if you are watering during the middle of the day, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Seaton says.

If you can't wake up by 5 a.m. to water the lawn, early evening is the best bet. In late evening, Seaton says standing water may create mold or fungus overnight. "If you water when it's late evening, dark, hot and humid, you're setting yourself up for mold and some other fungal problems that lawns can get," Seaton warned. If your lawn is beginning to look brown and weathered, Seaton suggests giving it two inches of water?#34;you can measure out two inches by setting a tuna can in the sprinkler path and marking the water level.

Both Seaton and Wielebnicki reminded residents of the water ordinance that governs Oak Park's usage of Lake Michigan water: residents at odd-numbered addresses should use sprinklers on odd-numbered days of the month, and residents with even addresses on even days. River Forest prohibits sprinklers between noon and 3 p.m. on weekdays, said Cotter.

"It's important so that we don't exceed our capacity or our usage," Wielebnicki said. "We need to manage the resource of Lake Michigan water."

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