Are you keeping track of how much water you’re using – and maybe wasting? You could probably cut your water bill by almost 50% if you do – and now’s the time to do it. Late July and early August are usually when outdoor water use soars. By some estimates, you might use between 30 and 70 percent of all the water your household consumes watering plants, trees, bushes and your lawn.
I like a lush green landscape as much as the next person. What I don’t like is a big hefty water bill, especially when I know I can save money by being smarter about how I use water. Experts estimate that 50 percent of the water we use outdoors gets wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff from overwatering.
No matter how much or how little water you use, it will save you and money and time to use less water. Here are ten tips that have worked for me that I’m happy to share with you.
Top 10 Tips to Save Water Outside
1. Xeriscape: Plant perennials, annuals, bushes and trees that do not need more water than normally falls in your region. If rainfall is scarce, skip hydrangeas, which require frequent watering to thrive and bloom. You can find a good list of plants and the amount of watering they require here.
2. Give Up Grass: Did you ever notice that grassy lawns don’t exist anywhere naturally? That’s because they’re a “monocrop,” and Mother Nature prefers to mix things up (it’s called “biodiversity”) by encouraging a variety of plants to grow together. Even in regions that benefit from a lot of rain, you won’t find a lawn growing all by its lonesome. Follow Mother Nature’s lead. Replace your thirsty lawn with a diverse array of ground covers that are more suited to the actual climate in which you live. Here’s a picture of my former lawn. It is now covered in buttercups, clover, and yes, a little crab grass. I never water it and only mow it maybe once a month.
3. Plant in “watering zones”: When planting, assign areas of your landscape to different hydrozones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers you plan to use. Then, adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. With this simple system in place, you’ll avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.
4. Tune up your system: Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway. Repair or replace hoses that have holes. I have one spigot I can’t seem to stop from leaking when I water, so I put a big bucket underneath it to catch the drips. When the bucket is around half full, I’ll empty it onto some hydrangeas or azaleas or other plants that need a little extra moisture. Works like a charm!
5. Water when it makes sense. Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility or garden center can recommend how much water certain plants need in your region and best times to water. It’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and late evening because large amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.
6. Use a WaterSense timer. WaterSense is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps people save water. Products carrying the WaterSense label perform well, help save money, and encourage innovation in manufacturing. Clock timers you attach to your faucet can be set to turn off automatically, saving you water and time. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, which reduces waste and improves plant health.
7. Get some help: Contractors certified through a WaterSense labeled program can audit, install, or maintain home irrigation systems to ensure water isn’t wasted. Make sure you ask for credentials.
8. Use a soil moisture sensor: Grass doesn’t always need water just because it’s hot out. Step on the lawn, and if the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water. An inexpensive soil moisture sensor can also show the amount of moisture at the plant’s roots and discourage overwatering.
9. Cut back on mowing. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation, and fewer weeds. So raise your lawn mower blade to leave the grass longer when you cut it.
10. Give your hose a break: Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off. And don’t forget to check for leaks at your spigot connection and tighten as necessary.
What Do You Do To Save Water?
We’re always eager to learn from you! If you have some additional ideas to save water outside, please share them below. Thanks!
And here’s another interesting idea for you: some people install water tanks to collect significant amounts of rainfall from their roofs, much more than they’d collect with just a rain barrel. Someone in my neighborhood installed an underground water tank, but there are many other ways to do it. Here’s how they do it in Australia, where rain is really at a premium.