A recent Metaefficient post offered some ideas for reducing water consumption in your home – but why stop there? Read on to learn about some tips and products that will help you manage water use in outdoor spaces like lawns and gardens. Best of all, you’ll reduce both your environmental impact and utility bills in the process.
Start With Your Lawn
A sprawling, lush lawn can be a major drain (literally) on water resources. Don’t worry, you can still have a beautiful and functional outdoor space – just be smart about it. Remember, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the US, landscape irrigation consumes over 7 billion gallons of water a day, and a whopping half of that is wasted thanks to over-watering and evaporation.
Water intelligently. Less frequent, heavier waterings will maintain a healthy lawn with less overall water usage. More importantly, this will also encourage deeper root growth, making grass more tolerant of hot, dry spells.
While you’re at it, make sure all that water is actually getting into the ground. Watering early in the morning or late in the evening will help minimize evaporation, as will skipping the watering on windy days.
If you’re using a sprinkler system, avoid overspraying onto sidewalks and driveways – they’re not going to grow any bigger. The Gardena AquaZoom sprinkler ($56.53 at Amazon) features adjustable spray length and width, up to 3,800 square feet of coverage, to help direct water precisely where you need it
Just maintain the lawn space you actually use. Unless you’re hosting polo tournaments, you probably don’t need to maintain huge tracts of grass. Lawn borders in particular are rarely used, but they add a surprising amount of square footage that must be watered and cared for. Consider shrinking your lawn area, and using other landscaping options for purely decorative spaces.
Consider xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is landscaping that requires little or no irrigation, other than natural rainfall. And this doesn’t need to mean “rocks & cactus” either – choosing plantings appropriate for your climate can let you enjoy a colorful, thriving, low-maintenance yard.
Two great guidebooks to learn about xeriscaping on your property are Xeriscape Handbook: A How-to Guide to Natural Resource-Wise Gardening ($16.47 at Amazon) and The Dry Gardening Handbook: Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate ($37.80 at Amazon).
If your landscaping does require some supplemental watering, make sure you’re watering as efficiently as possible.
Drip…drip…drip. A perforated soaker hose can be a great way to target the spots that need water, while minimizing overwatering and evaporation. The Colorite Earth Quencher Soaker Hose ($29.99 for 100 feet at Amazon) seeps water directly at the base of plants, and it gets extra efficiency points for its water restrictor and recycled tire rubber construction.
The power of mulch. A 2-4” layer of mulch spread around the base of trees and plants will help retain moisture and reduce evaporation, meaning less watering will be needed. Create a slight depression in the center to further help retain water and prevent runoff.
Rain Is Your Friend.
Rain beats a sprinkler any day. Rainwater is the ideal water source for outdoor plants – it’s free, and contains none of the chlorine found in tap water. Depending on the weather, you might not actually need to do any additional irrigation, so don’t risk over-watering if you don’t have to.
Simple tools like a rain gauge and a soil moisture sensor can give you a good indication whether or not you really need to get the hose out. The Taylor Precision Rain Gauge ($7.62 at Amazon) is simple and easy-to-read, and the Luster Leaf Rapitest 4-in-1 soil tester ($11.55) measures moisture as well as soil acidity, fertilizer levels, and sunlight.
Save it for later. A rain barrel is one of the easiest ways to collect rainwater from your gutters, and use it later when it’s needed. You can easily improvise your own, but the Algreen Cascata 65-Gallon Rain Barrel ($149.99 at Amazon) has a generous capacity, an integrated hose and spigot, and a design that’s downright attractive.
For even bigger applications, you can super-size your rainwater usage with a large-scale storage system like the Rainwater Pillow.
Carwash With Care
Using a commercial carwash is generally easier on you and the environment. Commercial carwashes are usually much more efficient than at-home washing, and they often recycle their water. A typical commercial carwash might use around 30 gallons per wash (roughly equivalent to a bath) instead of literally hundreds of gallons when someone lets their hose run in the driveway.
If you need to wash your car yourself, don’t let the water run into the gutter while you scrub. A sprayer like the Dramm 9-Pattern Revolver Hose Nozzle ($12.49 at Amazon) will cut water waste, and give you more oomph when it’s time to rinse. Bonus: its variety of spray patterns make it great for delicate plant watering as well as heavy-duty spraying.
And since you’re using a biodegradable soap (you are, right?) try parking your car on the lawn while washing. The grass will get a watering, and the runoff won’t run into the sewer or evaporate off the driveway.
Sweep, Don’t Spray
For paved areas like patios and driveways, resist the temptation to hose away debris like leaves. A plastic rake or wide push broom will get the job done just as well – and won’t waste a drop of water.
Do you have other suggestions for simple ways to cut household water consumption? Leave a comment below and let us know!