Our lawn had already been beginning to crunch…actually making a crunching sound when we walked on it…before my family left for vacation last week. We asked our neighbor to help salvage the tomatoes that were beginning to take shape, but, for the first time, we didn’t arrange for the yard to be mowed or watered.

Now the lawn is a bit crunchier, but its copper-tinged color looks like everyone else’s yard on the block.

It’s a summer when water is in high demand and conservation is encouraged.  Just last week, the Des Moines Water Works reported that water usage in the area had topped a record 96.6 million gallons (http://www.dmww.com/about-us/news-releases/des-moines-water-works-sets-new-water-pumpage-record.aspx ) prompting the business to call for across-the-board conservation measures to decrease usage by 10 percent. Businesses and golf courses have been asked to cut back on irrigation. Homeowners are urged to use water for laundry and lawns in the early mornings or late evenings. They’re also asked to embrace the “crunch” and simply let lawns go dormant.

Farmers in Nebraska were recently asked to cut back on field irrigation, something that Iowa farmers don’t use much due to our state’s soil. Our soil usually remains fairly moist and improved seeds have helped crops be more drought resistant. But the dry weather has taken a toll and many farmers are seeing entire cornfields wither and wilt and pastures for grazing cattle burn up. IFBF President Craig Hill forecasts that one-third of Iowa’s crops may be lost.

Water is something that we usually take for granted. For the most part, it’s available at the nearest faucet or hose. Iowa farmers don’t have that luxury. They just have a pray for rain and hope for the best. Livestock farmers are scrambling to find enough forage, even mowing ditches for hay to feed to their livestock because of dried-up pastures. After years of above-normal rain, the conservation mode is unsettling. But it’s vital to take voluntary measures to save water now so everyone has enough down the road.

Iowa State University Extension offers some water conservation tips (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/water-conservation-tips-home) for various areas of your home and life:

Kitchen: Running a full dishwasher actually uses less water than doing the same number of dishes by hand.

Laundry: Wash only full loads. Using cold water also will save energy.

Bathroom (my favorite tip): Reduce the number of flushes. Some families choose this motto: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Outside: As much as you hate the “crunch,” let that lawn go dormant. ISU says it will perk back up once it has sufficient moisture.

Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is a communications specialist with the Iowa Farm Bureau.