The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program can help you take some of the guesswork out of keeping a healthy yard while using less water. Outdoor water use stresses existing water supplies by contributing to peak demand during summer months. During these hot, dry times, utilities must increase capacity to meet water needs, sometimes as much as three to four times the amount used during the winter.
Water is our most precious natural resource; without it, there is no life. Yet judging by our water use and consumption practices, many Americans take it for granted. The average American uses 100 gallons of water per day—that’s 320 gallons used every day by the average family. More and more Americans are demonstrating their water smarts indoors by retrofitting their homes with WaterSense labeled products. But outdoors, especially in the summer, the amount of water used by a household can exceed the amount used for all other purposes in the entire year. This is especially true in hot, dry climates. Gardening and lawn care account for the majority of this seasonal increase. Of the estimated 29 billion gallons of water used daily by households in the United States, more than 8.5 billion, or 30 percent, is devoted to outdoor water use. In dry climates, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent. The majority of this is used for landscaping. In fact, it is estimated that the average American home consumes 58,000 gallons of water outdoors each year, mostly for irrigation. Many mistakenly believe that stunning gardens and beautiful lawns are only possible through extensive watering, fertilization, and pesticide application.
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN IT COMES TO WATER-SMART LANDSCAPING:
Go native or choose plants that need less water. Once established, native and low water-using plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. If you’re designing a new landscape or just sprucing up your current landscape, be sure to consider the water needs of the plants you choose. • Group plants according to their water needs. Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs into specific “hydrozones” reduces water use by allowing you to water to each zone’s specific needs. Turf areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs. • Maintain healthy soils. Healthy soils are the basis for a water-smart landscape; they effectively cycle nutrients, minimize runoff, retain water, and absorb excess nutrients, sediments, and pollutants. • Be selective when adding turf areas. Turfgrass receives the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping. To improve the aesthetics of your landscape and better manage outdoor water use, plant turfgrass only where it has a practical function. • Water wisely. Know your plant’s water needs and avoid watering during the heat of the day. If you have an irrigation system, make regular adjustments to ensure proper watering. And be sure to look for the WaterSense label on components for your system. • Use mulch. Incorporate mulch around shrubs and garden plants to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and prevent erosion. Adding organic matter and aerating soil can improve its ability to hold water. • Provide regular maintenance. Replace mulch around shrubs and garden plants at least once per year, and remove weeds and thatch as necessary. In short, plan and maintain your landscape with these principles of water efficiency in mind, and it will continue to be attractive and healthy while requiring less maintenance and less water.
Why Use Water-Smart Landscaping?
Proper landscaping techniques not only create beautiful landscapes, but also benefit the environment and save water
Water-smart yards often have increased curb appeal, which can lead to higher home values. In addition to requiring less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and usually less maintenance, watersmart landscapes offer many other benefits: • Lower water bills from reduced water use. • Conservation of natural resources and preservation of habitat for plants and wildlife, such as fish, birds, and waterfowl. • Decreased energy use (and air pollution associated with its generation) because less pumping and treatment of water is required. • Reduced home or office heating and cooling costs through the careful placement of shade trees and shrubs. • Reduced runoff of stormwater and irrigation water that carries top soils, fertilizers, and pesticides into lakes, rivers, and streams.
Fewer yard trimmings to be managed or landfilled. • Reduced landscaping labor and maintenance costs. • Extended life for water resource infrastructure (e.g., reservoirs, treatment plants, groundwater aquifers), thus reduced taxpayer costs. If you’ve designed a water-smart landscape, you might be able to get all the water you need from rainfall alone. But sometimes, that might not be enough. Whether you water with a hose or use an irrigation system, smart watering habits can keep your lawn and landscape healthy and beautiful without wasting water or money.