Healthy Households

A complete list of tips for healthier living is available as a PDF file.
Health Household Tips

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Water Conservation Tips for Homeowners

Tips for saving water both inside and outside of your home

Kitchen & Laundry

  1. Eliminate leaks by turning faucets off completely and, as needed, replace old gaskets. A single dripping faucet can waste as much as 3600 gallons a year.
  2. Use the “water-saver” setting or make sure your machine is set for the most efficient use.
  3. Only wash full loads of dished or clothes

Bathroom

  1. If you hear running water in your toilet tank fix the leak by replacing the faulty hardware.
  2. Flush only when necessary. Install a water-filled plastic jug in your toilet tank to reduce the water used per flush.
  3. Don’t use your toilet as a trash can.
  4. Take fewer and shorter showers.
  5. Don’t leave the water running while rinsing, shaving, or brushing teeth.

Lawn & Garden

  1. Hold your garden hose close to the roots of plants so that there’s little waste and evaporative loss (soaker hoses are even more efficient).
  2. Water slowly so that the soil soaks up all the water you use. To avoid the possibility of disease (due to promotion of fungi growth), and minimize evaporation, the best time to water is very early morning hours (dawn to approximately 9 am). Avoid watering on windy days (which increases evaporation).
  3. Never let water run unnecessarily. Installing a spray handle helps. Allow your grass to grow to approximately 3 inches before cutting.
  4. Install a timer and a rain sensor on outdoor irrigation systems.
  5. Position sprinklers so that they do not water the pavement. Do not over water allowing water to run down the street. Note that turf grasses can survive on as little as a half inch of water per week.
  6. When washing the car, place the car on the grass and use soap and water from a bucket. Use a hose with a shut-off nozzle for the final rinse so that the water runs only when you need it.
  7. Don’t use the hose to clean driveways and sidewalks; instead use a broom, which will provide more exercise.
  8. Mulch plants to reduce evaporation and help retain moisture. Mulch is available from Chatham County at no charge. For more information, please call 652-6858.

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Xeriscape - Water Wise Landscaping

Xeriscape is a simple, seven-step approach to developing a lush but water-wise landscape. The beauty of this method is that it not only saves water, but it saves time, energy and money.

The following information was adopted from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service publication entitled, “Xeriscape – a guide to developing a water-wise landscape.”

1.) Planning and Design: Landscapes should be designed with different water use zones.
High Water Use Zone - Plan your high water use zone for small but highly visible areas, like near your front door. These areas may require regular irrigation.

Moderate Water Use Zone - These areas will require occasional irrigation and cover a larger part of the landscape

Low Water Use Zones - These areas are watered only by natural rainfall although some plants may require irrigation until properly established. In order to conserve water, the low water use zones should encompass the largest part of your landscape. Low water use zones are perfect for private but functional areas like the backyard.

2.) Soil Analysis: Soils differ in their ability to hold water and nourish plants. It’s important to test your soil so that you have a healthy foundation for your landscape. Follow these three steps to a healthy lawn and garden.

  • Have the pH and fertility of your soil tested by UGA Extension before you fertilize- your soils may not require any fertilizer at all. 
  •  Test soil compaction.  Compacted soils are unhealthy for plants and can generate as much runoff as pavement.  To test for soil compaction, try sinking a screwdriver into the ground without pounding.  If the screwdriver doesn’t penetrate easily, aerate the soil with a hand or mechanical corer.  Don’t use spike type rollers:  these actually make compaction worse.
  • Examine soil texture and drainage.  Neither very sandy nor heavy clay soils provide a good foundation for lawns or other plantings.  To examine soil texture, squeeze a hand full of soil into a ball. If the soil falls apart it’s too sandy; if the soil stays in a clump it has too much clay.   In general, soil with a good texture will stay pretty spongy.

3.) Appropriate Plant Selection: Plants that are suited to the coastal Georgia environment will require less water, chemicals and maintenance to survive in your landscape. Choose plants with watering needs that match the zone they're planted in.  For a list of appropriate plants, call the MPC Water Resources Program at 651-1454.

4.) Practical Turf Areas: Consider the functional and/or aesthetic value of turfgrass when planning your landscape. Keep irrigated turf areas small and use drought resistant varieties such as Tifway Bermuda, Common Bermuda, and Centipede. Don't use turf grass as filler for large landscapes. Reduce the need for fertilizers, pesticides, mowing, and watering by replacing turf grass with lower maintenance plantings. 

5.) Efficient Irrigation: A water smart landscape should only require minimal irrigation after it is established.  In order to be as effective as possible, irrigation must be planned in accordance with the water needs of the different parts of your landscape.  Applying the same amount of water to the entire landscape defeats the purpose of Steps 1 and 3. Proper watering will depend on a number of factors including soils and current weather patterns. In general:

  • Adjust the timers on automatic sprinkler systems every week or so, depending on the weather. (If soils are healthy, turf grass should only need about 1" of water a week during warm weather.)
  •  Avoid overspray onto impermeable surfaces such as roads, driveways, and sidewalks.
  •  Maintain irrigation systems.  This may involve repairing leaks, broken heads, and risers, as well as adjusting application patterns and rates to minimize runoff.
  • Irrigate with reuse water whenever and wherever possible. Using anything from shallow wells to air conditioner condensate can help conserve our valuable drinking water.
  • Install rain sensors on all automatic irrigation systems. Watering when it’s raining is wasteful and can result in stormwater runoff.

6.) Use of Mulches: Mulches hold moisture in the soil, prevent crusting of the soil surface, insulate roots from extreme temperatures, discourage soil borne diseases, and prevent weeds that compete with landscape plants for water. Pine straw, chipped or shredded bark, and fall leaves are all commonly used and readily available types of mulch. Plastic film is not recommended as it prevents oxygen, nutrients and water from reaching plant roots. Chatham County has a yard waste recycling program that produces free mulch for citizens of Chatham County. For more information on where you can get free mulch call (912) 652- 6863.  

7.) Appropriate Maintenance: Xeriscape-type maintenance includes the following:

Appropriate Mowing, Deep Roots - Mowing your grass at the appropriate height will keep lawns thick and healthy. St. Augustine turf should be kept at about 3", Centipede turf should be mowed to 1 1/2 - 1 3/4", and Zoysia turf should be mowed to about 2".  Try to mow often enough so that only the top one-third of the grass blade is cut. If you are unsure about what height to cut your turf, check with your local extension agent.

Recycle Clippings - If left on the lawn, clippings provide important moisture and nutrients (clippings can provide up to half the nitrogen needed by your lawn).  Since they’re about 85% water, small clippings quickly break down and don’t cause thatch. Make sure that clippings are no more than 1" long or they may be too large to break down before your next mowing.

Managing Thatch - Thatch is the woody remains of grass (roots, stems, and sheaths).  Thatch builds up when there aren’t enough microorganisms in the soil to break woody grass remains down. Don’t use insecticides and keep soil aerated to encourage microorganisms and reduce thatch.  If thatch builds up over 1/2", aerate the soil and sprinkle compost or sifted topsoil over the lawn (a practice called top dressing) instead of fertilizing.

Pruning, Fertilizing, and Pest Control - Limit fertilizing and pruning plants during times of drought to avoid water-demanding new growth. Target pests only after they begin to affect the appearance and health of your plants. Limit your control measures to the affected areas and avoid spraying the entire landscape. Never apply chemicals before a forecasted rain event.

Let Plants Tell You When They Need Water- Watch for signs that your plants are experiencing water-related stress. Signs can include leaves that turn a gray green or fall color and wilt. Turf grass will turn a dull grey-green color and the blades will wilt and roll inwards.

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Fat-Free Sewers Tips

Sewer overflows and backups can cause health hazards, damage home interiors, and threaten the environment. An increasingly common cause overflows is sewer pipes blocked by grease. Grease gets in the sewer from household drains as well as from poorly maintained grease traps in restaurants and other businesses. Here are some tips to maintaining fat-free sewers:

  1. Never pour grease down sink drains or into toilets.
  2. Scrap grease and food scraps form trays, plates, pots, pans, utensils, and grills, and cooking surfaces into a can or the trash for disposal (or recycling where available).
  3. Do not put grease down the garbage disposals. Put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and empty the drain baskets/strainers into the trash for disposal.
  4. Speak with your friends and neighbors about the problem of grease in the sewer system and how to keep it out. Please call the Town of Thunderbolt’s Public Works office if you have any questions.

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The Regional Plan of Coastal Georgia

Download Entire Plan Here

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