For those of us here in the mountain counties region, but specifically the Tuolumne County area that is served by Tuolumne Utilities District (T.U.D.) for our water, the up and coming summer and fall seasons really look pretty bleak for those of us who have yards with plants/vegetation we’ve planted and care about, lawns, fruit trees and/or veggie gardens. What with the Phase Three water restrictions enacted by T.U.D. due to the drought conditions and the resulting required 50% cut back on water usage by T.U.D. customers, keeping our yard vegetation alive, let alone healthy, will be a daunting task. Anyone watching this drought situation unfold over the past year or more should have been planning for the worst-case scenario long before now. But, if you are like a lot of us, you kept hoping all winter for the best (rain/snow) only to find out that we didn’t get near enough. Sure the wet weather in March and April helped, but it was too little too late. So what to do now that reality is staring us right in the face? First, and most importantly, get a mind set that this IS for real and if you want things growing in your yard at the end of 2014, you need to go into immediate action now even though it really is late. Start by spreading a thick layer of mulch around all of the plants and trees you want to save. This will help keep what moisture that is in the soil there longer, help starve out from sun light weeds that will compete for that moisture, and, help keep the soil temperature cooler as the long hot summer days come on. An added bonus will be that over time, as the mulch decomposes, it will turn into nutrients for the plants and trees that you spread it around. Next, examine the method you’ve been using to water your yard. If it has been by a hose or broadcast sprinkler, those methods will ‘not fly’ with the Phase Three water restrictions in place. The lawns…well, forget them, as you are not allowed to water lawns under Phase Three. You can carry water to your plants/trees in a bucket, but that is a ‘pain’. Your best bet is to seriously consider installing (if you haven’t already) a drip watering system. These systems work wonders and are very miserly in their water use when installed properly. However, they can pose a safety issue to your potable water system if you don’t install them correctly and a ‘backflow’ condition is allowed to occur. Making absolutely sure that the air breaker valves are installed at least six (6) inches above the highest irrigation outlet will help avoid a backflow occurrence. Installing backflow valves at the point of connection to the potable water connection will also help. Always follow the drip watering systems manufacturers instructions to a “T” to avoid contamination of your house potable water system and the possible sickening or worse of your family should backflow contamination occur.