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UT Extension Hot Topics – What is the most important nutrient?

By Chris Mackey

What’s clear, odorless, tasteless, and doesn’t have an expiration date? Answer; its water! Water is a resource that we utilize every day of our lives. From watering your hanging basket on your porch to drinking a cool glass of refreshments after working in the hayfield; water is the most important nutrient for sustaining all life.

Did you know that the average American household uses approximately 300 gallons of water a day? Wow, that’s a lot of liquid! With those long, hot summer days quickly upon us, here are a few quick tips on how you can help conserve and make better use of our most precious resource.

• Tip #1 – Do you have a leaky faucet or overflowing stock tank nearby? You might want to look into fixing or replacing those implements. While the drip you see when you wake up in the morning or the pool of water standing out in your pasture fields might only be costing you a few extra pennies a day, those pennies can quickly add up to large bills. Allowing standing water or continual leakage can lead to an increased health risk through the spreading of harmful bacteria and increase damage costs to your land and homes. Don’t drown in these unplanned damages because of a small drip.

• Tip #2 – With the current Covid-19 pandemic, keeping our bodies and living environments clean is essential. One common waste of water is during the handwashing process. Rather than leaving the faucet running when you are washing your hands or even brushing our teeth, go ahead and turn the faucet off while you’re scrubbing. This will reduce the amount of water that is not being used to rinse your hands and your mouth.

• Tip #3 – When it comes time to watering our vegetable gardens and flower beds, we tend to overcompensate with our water allowance to prevent wilting of our beloved plants. Readily available water sources tend to develop shallow root systems. During extended periods of dry weather, these shallow rooted plants will require more frequent watering than those with strong, deep roots. While many factors such as environment, growth stage, and soil texture affect the amount of water a plant needs; on average a plant will only need 1-3 inches of water per week to produce fruit or bloom. Allow your plants to develop deep, healthy root systems by following this tip and intern you’ll make better use of your time, money, and resources. 

• Tip #4 – Utilizing rain barrels/containers outside of your home is a great way to conserve water. Allow water to flow from your roof or collection site into a large barrel or container. This will reduce the amount of groundwater you use and helps to reduce the amount you spend on your utilities. This water can be used to irrigate your plants, allow livestock to drink from, or even as a supplemental water source for your family. Just make sure that you keep these areas and containers free from debris, contaminants, and pests.   

For more information, contact Chris Mackey in the UT Extension Office at 735-1637. Additional information can also be found on our website at unicoi.tennessee.edu for a full list of programs and events.  Program announcements and timely educational resources can also be found on the local UT Extension Facebook page at facebook.com/unicoiextension.