Backyard Conservation: Great Tips for Landowners
Useful for both Urban and Rural Communities

Through its partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Pulaski Conservation District provides technical assistance to urban and rural homeowners concerning environmental and conservation issues. Call or visit the Pulaski Conservation District's office if you have any questions concerning how to improve your land or property. The District is here to help and we are there for you.

Greentips: Hot water with less worry
(written by: Union of Concerned Scientists)

Water heating accounts for approximately 15% of the average household's total energy consumption (and a sizable chunk of its energy costs).  If your water heater is more than 10 years old it is likely running at less than 50 percent efficiency--wasting energy and money--but most people don't replace their water heater until it fails.  Upgrading to a new, more energy-efficient model will lower not only your monthly expenses, but also your contribution to air pollution and global warming.

Before you shop for a new water heater, however, make sure you've done everything you can to minimize your hot water use.  Install  water-saving fixtures and appliances, for example, and insulate your pipes.  Then, choose the most energy-efficient model that meets your needs and budget; three types are described below.

Storage Water Heaters
Heaters that maintain a large tank of water at a set temperature are the most common, and are best suited for larger households that use a lot of hot water.  They have become more efficient over the years, but some energy is still wasted when the hot water is not being used (known as standby energy loss).

To purchase the most efficient storage water heater for your needs, you need to know two numbers: first-hour rating(FHR) and energy factor (EF).  FHR represents the amount of hot water your family uses during its busiest hour; the U.S. Dept. of Energy offers a worksheet to help you determine this amount .  EF represents how efficiently  the appliance operates, with higher values significantly better efficiency.  EF ratings typically range from 0.75 to 0.95 for electric water heaters, and 0.50 to 0.70 for natural gas-fired water heaters.

Tankless Water Heaters
Also known as on-demand or instantaneous heaters, these devices use energy only when hot water is needed, resulting in less standby energy loss than storage heaters.  They tend to have a higher up-front cost, but less expensive to operate in the long term due to their efficiency.  When choosing a tankless water heater, you must first determine your required flow rate, or the total hot water consumption of the appliances you need to run simultaneously (in gallons per minute).

Solar Water Heaters
By transferring heat from the sun into a conventional storage tank, solar water heaters can supply part or all of your hot water needs.  They have higher up-front costs than conventional water heaters but much lower operating costs, and can pay for themselves within 4 to 10 years under favorable conditions.  You might also be able to take advantage of local, state, or federal energy-efficiency incentives that help lower your initial investment.

Save Energy and Money at Home: Heating and Cooling

(written by: Environmental Defense)

Heating and cooling is a top energy user, with the average household producing about four tons of heat-trapping pollution a year.  It is heavily influenced by weather.  For example, a relatively cold 1996 led to an increase in heat-trapping emissions compared to the previous year.  But the next year, a warm winter helped emissions dip a bit.  Warmer summers increase greenhouse gas pollution too, from heavy air conditioning use.  Despite the relative warmness or coolness of the season, the U.S. emits a harmful amount of global warming pollution.

Even as the weather varies, your choices can help slow global warming.

  • In summer, keep shades drawn to keep the cool in.

  • In winter, open shades to let the sunshine help warm rooms.

  • Install a programmable thermostat to heat and cool rooms only when necessary.

  • Plant trees around your house to cut cooling costs in summer.

  • Insulate your walls and ceilings.

  • Install a light-colored or reflective roof.

Non-Point Source Pollution

Recently the District has been partnered with Central Arkansas Water to raise awareness of non-point source pollution. The effort has been remarkably successful. For further information on non-point source pollution, please click on the following handouts:

Non-point #1
This contains a list of definitions of non-point source pollution and watersheds.
Non-point #2
This contains a description of Lake Maumelle and tips concerning how homeowners can help reduce non-point source pollution.
Non-point #3
This contains a list of agencies and organizations that can assist home owners in reducing non-point source pollution.

Hidden Hazards: One-call procedures to keep farm and family safe

Safety experts say that underground facilities such as pipelines, waterlines, electric lines, or telecommunications cables are accidentally struck about 1,000 times daily across the U.S.  If you include casualties caused by cave-ins due to inadequate shoring of trenches, the underground claims an average of nearly one life per week.

Although most of accidental contacts with underground infrastructure can be traced to excavators doing work in cities and towns, safety experts say agricultural related incidents seem to be on the rise.  A recent survey conducted by the Common Ground Alliance, a national organization that makes efforts to protect underground infrastructure, found that farmers were no always aware of what may be under the surface of their land.

One Phone Call: Bob Kipp, the organization's president, suggested that a call to One Call Center before a farmer begins an operation that might cause contact with underground facilities would result in the marking of possible areas of contact to prevent problems.  The Federal Communications Commission recently designated  a three-digit dialing code, 8-1-1 , to become a nationwide number to call to notify utilities of  plans to excavate.  There are (71) One Call Centers in the U.S. currently operating with their own numbers. However, the national 8-1-1number is expected to be in operation by April, 2007.

Tips For Improving Your Properties

French Drains:  After a rainfall do you have standing water in your yard?  It may be that all you need is a simple French drain to remedy the problem.  Plans are available to install a French drain which basically consists of digging a trench and filling with gravel at the district office for your convenience. Pulaski Conservation District is prepared to help you plan this and many other projects, from proper planting seasons for crops to surveying ponds.

Ponds: When you think of a pond, providing water for cattle, fishing, or irrigation comes to mind.  However, many homeowners with limited acreage or a city lot are now installing landscape water features in their backyards for enjoyment or wildlife.  The Pulaski District office in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service can offer advice concerning the feasibility of developing ponds, no matter the size, on your property.  The staff is also available to discuss spillways, site vegetation, and sealing of existing ponds that are seeping.  There is no charge for an on site visit.  If you are interested in pond development or improvement information or wish to request an excellent information pamphlet, "Ponds-Planning. Design, Construction,USDA NRCS Agriculture Handbook #590", please contact the District office.

Backyard Wetlands: A mini-wetland in your yard can provide many of the same benefits that natural wetlands offer.  A mini-wetland can replace the important natural functions of wetlands that may have been lost when your community was developed.  A wetland will temporarily store, filter, and clean runoff water from your roof and lawn.  It will provide habitat for many interesting creatures-from butterflies and bees to salamanders, toads, frogs and birds.  If you have a naturally occurring wet spot or a low swale or drainage way with heavy clay soils, you can easily turn such areas into a wetland paradise.

NRCS Backyard Wetlands tip sheets that contain advice concerning suitable wetland locations, safety factors,  how to construct a wetland, and suitable wetland plants are available at the Pulaski Conservation District Office.

Backyard Terracing: Terraces can create several mini-gardens in your backyard. On steep slopes, terracing can make planting a flower or vegetable garden possible.  Terraces prevent erosion by shortening the long slope into a series of shorter, more level steps.  This allows heavy rains to soak into the soil rather than run off and cause erosion.

NRCS Backyard Terracing tip sheets that contain advice concerning how to design and construct terraces, materials to use in construction of terraces, and other options(i.e., vegetation) for treating steep slopes are available at the Pulaski Conservation Office.

The Wonder of Worms

Unfortunately, the earthworm doesn't get the admiration afforded the colorful butterfly or the cute hummingbird.  But, this small slimy creature is certainly one of the most beneficial organisms you can have in your yard. 

Worms perform several functions in your garden soil.  Their tunneling activity helps aerate the soil.  The channels they make as they move through the soil allow rain to enter the soil more rapidly, reducing runoff and the potential for erosion.  This also improves soil structure by creating a loose soil that is easily penetrated by roots.  They also increase  the nutrients available in the soil for plants. 

As worms digest plant material, their castings or excrement concentrate nutrients.  Castings are several times higher in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than topsoil.  This nutrient rich material rich material is mixed into the soil where plant roots can use the nutrients.  Also, by incorporating litter into the soil, worms reduce the number of fungus spores on the soil surface and that can help prevent plant diseases such a apple scab.

While worms might not be the most attractive species on wildlife to have in your yard, they can be of the most helpful.  Treat them right and they will return the favor by improving your soil for healthy plant growth.  For more information on worms,  nutrient management, mulching, and other Backyard Conservation practices, contact the Pulaski Conservation Office (501) 758-2544 Ext. 3 for a free colorful Backyard Conservation booklet and tip sheets.

Other Backyard Conservation Tip Sheets:

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Backyard Conservation tip sheets concerning the following topics are available at the Pulaski Conservation District Office:
  • Composting

  • Mulching

  • Nutrient Management

  • Pest Management

  • Tree Planting

  • Water Conservation

  • Wildlife Habitat

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August 2013 Newsletter

Pulaski Conservation District
4004 McCain Boulevard
Room 201 NBA Building
North Little Rock, AR. 72116
           Phone: (501) 758-2544 Ext. 3
Fax: (501) 758-7052

Conservation ~ Development ~ Self-Government

Site Development by Christian Means
Copyright (2013)© Pulaski Conservation District