Saving water in your landscape doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Many of the most effective things you can do to reduce your water bills and protect your community’s water supply are simple and easy. Here are a few suggestions that are either one-time investments in water-saving equipment that you can do or have someone else install for you, or simple changes of habit.
- Install an automatic-rain-shutoff device. This is an inexpensive device you can install on your irrigation system controller that tells it to shut off when a specified amount of rain has fallen. It protects your lawn (and your water bill) from accidental overwatering. An automatic rain shutoff typically costs under $200 to install, including labor. In many parts of the country, it can save enough water to pay for itself within the first season.
- Update your irrigation system with a smart controller. A slightly larger investment ($300 to several thousand dollars) will buy you a weather-based irrigation controller capable of improving your watering efficiency by up to 40%. If your water bill has been large it will probably pay itself back within a couple of years.
- Upgrade to water-efficient emitters. The past decade has seen growth of leaps and bounds in emitter technology. If your sprinkler heads, rotors, or drip irrigation emitters are more than a couple of years old, ask your local irrigation expert to inspect your system and recommend more efficient alternatives if appropriate.
- Eliminate leaks. According to the EPA, a single 1/32” diameter leak on a hose, emitter or outdoor faucet can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water in a year. Imagine the cost if you have multiple leaks! Outdoor leaks are especially prone to waste because they often aren’t noticed. If you hire a competent landscape company to maintain your lawn, you won’t have to worry because they will check for leaks at each visit. However, if you do your own maintenance, be sure to put leak inspection on your weekly list.
- Install a rain barrel. It’s good for plants because it’s free of many of the salts and chemicals that are present in most groundwater or city-water sources. Many municipalities are now offering incentives to homeowners who install these inexpensive water-saving devices. A landscape-irrigation expert can help you decide how best to integrate your rainwater with your existing irrigation system.
- Choose drought-tolerant plants. Careful plant selection can make a huge difference in your water use. Many plants, such as white fir, yarrow, yucca, and sage are naturally adapted to thrive in low water conditions. Check with your local landscape professional for advice as to which species will do well in your area and on your specific property.
- A thick layer of mulch helps keep the root zone cool and moisture in the soil. Organic mulches such as wood chips and shredded bark will also contribute organic matter to the soil over time. Some mulches are more appropriate than others for certain applications, so choose carefully.
- Water the soil, not the leaves. Water at the root zone to keep evaporation to a minimum. Keeping water off your plants’ leaves will also help control fungal diseases and prevent sunscald. A professionally-designed irrigation system – drip or otherwise – is far better at proper water delivery than the simple lawn sprinklers you can buy in the hardware store. It is an investment that will pay for itself over time in reduced water bills and healthier plants.
- Mow high. Keeping your grass at the upper recommended limit (about 2 inches for most species) will help shade the soil and prevent excessive evaporation.
- Don’t overwater. It sounds simplistic, but more water is wasted through overwatering than for any other reason. Watering too much doesn’t just waste a precious resource. It is also very bad for your plants. Too much water in the soil stresses your plants’ root systems and contributes to root rot and fungal and bacterial disease. Consult your landscape professional for help in designing a watering system and/or schedule to deliver the correct amount of water for your landscape.
These are just a few suggestions you can implement to keep your outdoor water use to a minimum while enjoying a beautifully healthy lawn and landscape. Try a few this year, and see how much water you can save!