Drought Q&A: How do you stop mosquitoes from invading rain barrels?

I’ve been saving water in our “green” poly trash can. I suspect we have about 40 gallons worth. Now, I have mosquitoes. What can you suggest? – Darrell Kaff, Roseville

Mosquitoes tend to gravitate to any standing water, no matter how small the amount. And now is the time of year when mosquitoes come out of hibernation and start breeding. But there are ways to save water and help prevent mosquitoes, too.

“Given the drought, saving water is certainly a good idea – if done properly,” said Luz Rodriguez of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. “However, it becomes imperative that homeowners take the proper precautions to ensure they are not producing mosquitoes. In hot weather, mosquitoes can go from an egg to an adult in as little as 7 to 10 days, posing a health threat for diseases such as West Nile virus.”

The district offered these tips to help prevent mosquitoes if you are saving water:

• It’s always best to use a container made specifically for saving water (such as a rain barrel) rather than buckets, garbage cans or other homemade containers.

• Always use a mosquito-proof screen to seal and cover the rain barrel or other water-saving container.

• Keep the rain barrel’s lid and connectors sealed to keep bugs out.

• Ensure that the water you save is free of organic material such as leaves and other debris.

– Debbie Arrington

Why is it that Nestlé is allowed to take an unlimited amount of municipal tap water at a flat rate and bottle it for resale at a markup of 1,000+ percent while the rest of us are told to cut back? – Debra Sharkey, Sacramento

Nestlé uses a tiny portion of the city’s water. If every Sacramento resident cut water use by 1 percent, the city would save far more water than if the Nestlé plant shut down.

The City Council approved the Nestlé plant in 2009. It has the capacity to draw 80 million gallons of city water a year, Nestlé officials said at the time.

Sacramento’s residents and businesses use about 39 billion gallons of water a year, or roughly 106 million gallons a day. So even if the Nestlé plant ran at full capacity every day and consumed only municipal water, it would use less in a year than the city’s customers use in a day.

Other factories in the region use more water than Nestlé. For example, Aerojet uses an average of 900 million gallons of untreated water supplied by the city of Folsom each year, according to Folsom’s urban water management plan.

Asked if Sacramento has told Nestlé to cut back water use, city utilities spokeswoman Jessica Hess said the city is requiring all its customers to reduce water use by 20 percent. But, she added, “we have not asked any of our commercial customers to cut back water use that is essential to their business.”

Nestlé spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said Nestlé has cut water waste at the Sacramento plant by about a third since opening in 2010. It did this, in part, she said, by recovering and reusing water used during the purification process. All told, she said, the plant uses about 1.3 liters of water for every liter of water produced.

– Phillip Reese

If I remember correctly, past water restrictions (in the city of Sacramento) allowed the watering of new landscaping on “no watering” days and drip systems were also exempt. Was/is that still true? – Raquel Beckett, Sacramento

Do the city's watering restrictions apply to watering vegetable beds? – Jordan Lang, Sacramento

Within the city of Sacramento, drip irrigation systems can be used anytime. The present rules that limit landscape watering to only two days a week (based on whether your address number is odd or even) apply only to sprinkler systems and hand watering, said Jessica Hess, spokeswoman for the city Utilities Department.

Also, new plantings (whether a new lawn, shrubs, decorative planters or garden beds) can be watered daily for as many as 21 consecutive days to help them get established. Afterward, the other rules apply.

“We actually encourage people to consider that planting now can help plants get established with limited water use,” Hess said. “This is because the cooler temperatures and rainfall mean you will need to water them less during the 21-day variance.”

Vegetable beds, once established, must heed the twice-a-week schedule if watered by sprinklers or by hand. But if they are on drip irrigation, they can be watered any time, Hess said.

These rules apply only within the city of Sacramento. Residents outside the city should check with their water provider.

– Matt Weiser

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee