Last week we looked at dozens of ways we can conserve water in the home. Water conservation outside the home is just as important. In fact, given how much water is used in yards, it may be even more important!
Water use outside the home is so critical because urban lawn watering is the single largest demand on the majority of municipal water supplies in our country. Subsequently, water conservation needs to occur in the yard as well as in the house. Let’s look at some ways we can easily and effectively conserve water outside the home.
Ways to reduce water use in the yard
Selection of plants
- Plant grass sparingly and select low-water varieties that can withstand periods of drought and become dormant during hot, dry seasons.
- Choose climate-appropriate and native/adapted plant types while avoiding plants labeled as “hard to establish,” “susceptible to disease,” or “needs frequent attention,” as these plants often need great amounts of supplemental water.
- Avoid landscaping during periods of drought because it often takes a lot of water to establish new plants.
- Fill bare areas with climate-appropriate and native/adapted trees, shrubs, and other plants because these help reduce water runoff.
- Consider allowing your yard to re-naturalize or installing a xeriscape. Re-naturalized areas are those that have been left to grow naturally—native plants have taken root and reestablished their presence. These areas do not require watering and they can reduce water runoff from your property. Xeriscapes are landscapes that are designed to have little or no need for supplemental water. Xeriscapes take diverse forms, but limited water consumption is a universal characteristic.
- Learn the water requirements of your landscape plants and provide only the amount of water that they need.
- If using a manual irrigation system, set a timer when watering so you do not forget to turn off the water. Move the sprinkler around the yard in cycles to allow the water to evenly soak in.
- If using an automatic irrigation system, routinely check to make sure your irrigation system is operating properly. Preform maintenance as needed (e.g., replace broken or missing sprinkler heads, adjust heads so that water does not reach streets and driveways).
- Make a habit of manually operating your automatic irrigation system in order to adjust water use according to the weather (e.g., temperature, rainfall). Consider installing soil moisture sensors if you want to avoid this hands-on approach.
- Water between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. to avoid evaporation losses from hot weather conditions and avoid watering in windy weather.
- Group plants with similar water needs together.
- In gardens, consider planting in blocks instead of rows in order to create shade for root systems and reduce evaporation.
- Install drip irrigation systems at the base of plants.
- Place mulch around plants because mulch reduces evaporation from the soil surface, reducing irrigation needs.
- Pull weeds so they do not compete with plants for water.
- If possible, direct downspouts towards shrubs or trees.
- Where legal, use water from rain barrels and grey water collection systems for irrigating lawns and plants.
What additional ideas do you have? What things do you do to conserve water outside your home?