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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sprinklers in the rain wasteful

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Columnist

Q. I get frustrated when I see it's pouring down rain and somebody's sprinklers are on. The Honolulu Board of Water Supply reminds people about water conservation pretty often, but I wonder why they don't provide information or even discount coupons for moisture sensors that people can buy to shut off their sprinklers when it rains. The electric company has offered coupons and discounts and the Board of Water Supply has handed out leak detectors and low-flow showerheads in the past.

A. Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Su Shin said that as a government agency, the board can't back a certain product. "We can't endorse any individual or company which could give a competitive advantage to a private business," she said.

She said the board uses some of those devices in its own system but they do require maintenance.

"We use moisture-sensing irrigation systems. Some gauge rainfall and others gauge moisture in soil," she said.

Shin said the board tries to assess the cost of various proposals and the benefit to consumers and the aquifer.

She said the American Water Works Association offers a variety of conservation steps at its Web site, www.awwa.org.

They include using moisture sensors as well as these general tips:

  • Water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. and avoid watering on windy days.

  • Water in several short sessions rather than one long one. For example, three 10-minute sessions spaced 30 minutes to an hour apart will allow your lawn to better absorb moisture than one straight 30-minute session.

  • Only water when your lawn is thirsty. Overwatering promotes shallow root growth, making your lawn less hardy. (To determine if your lawn needs to be watered, simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water.)

  • Install moisture sensors in each irrigation zone (sunny, shady, etc.) to better determine irrigation needs.

    Q. Who is responsible for cutting back tree branches that overhang the Likelike Highway? I called the state Transportation Department months ago about the gunpowder trees on the Kane'ohe side of the Wilson Tunnel because there are several trees whose branches overhang both sides of the highway. When there is a high wind, those branches are easily broken and could cause some major car accidents. The woman who took my call said there is a schedule that they follow for cutting the trees. I guess we don't get to be on the schedule until something happens.

    A. State Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the trees and vegetation above the tunnel entrances were not only trimmed, but cleared out this month as part of emergency work to clear the drainage area above the tunnel openings on the Kane'ohe side of the tunnel.

    After three weeks worth of debris from the recent rains, "we were concerned that additional mud, rocks and debris would overflow onto the roadway below," Ishikawa said. So the state hired a contractor to clear out about 30 large truckloads of mud, debris and vegetation, and to build a 5-foot-high chain-link fence to provide another line of defense against small falling rocks, he said.

    If you have a question or a problem and need help getting to the right person, you can reach The Bureaucracy Buster one of three ways:

    Write to:

    The Bureaucracy Buster
    The Honolulu Advertiser
    605 Kapi'olani Blvd.
    Honolulu, HI 96813

    E-mail: buster@honoluluadvertiser.com

    Phone: 535-2454 and leave a message. Be sure to give us your name and daytime telephone number in case we need more information.