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Help Tree Canopy Cut Back On Water Use


The City of Sacramento is in a tight spot.  It's a Tree City U.S.A. with 100,000 under the care of the City and an additional 400,000 trees on private property. And, California is in the third year of a drought.

0721 bm trees

According to the University of California Center For Landscape and Urban Horticulture, a tree with a 20-foot canopy in the Sacramento area draws about 180 gallons of water each week.  Other trees like fruit trees could use that amount in a day.  If the average tree uses 720 gallons each month, that means trees in the city of Sacramento consume about 360-million gallons of water each month.  That's a lot of water in a drought. But, there are ways to reduce the volume of water the trees use. 

0721 bm tree canopy two branches

Joe Benassini is the city's Urban Forester.  He says people can reduce the amount of water their trees use.

"We highly recommend mulching," he says. "Mulching makes a huge difference in how much really transpires out of the ground --out of the soil and it also helps reduce competition from surrounding turf and weeds.  In the long run those actually  are significant barriers to good tree growth."

Benassini says new trees and others that are not drought-tolerant may need deep watering once or twice a week. But he says most trees are fine on their own.

"After three years, particularly in the Downtown and Midtown areas, but also  East Sacramento and Land Park where we have good soils, the trees really do well on their own. They're able to exploit the ground enough to get enough water so that we don't have to give them that helping hand."

The Sacramento Tree Foundation says some trees like Redwoods and Birch may need extra water to keep them from struggling.

Benassini says he hasn't seen any trees under city care exhibit any effects from the drought.

0721 bm two trees