July 1, 2016
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. But maintaining our lawns during this hot, dry season – without singing the water conservation blues — well, that can be kinda hard.
Summer’s rising temperatures coincide with rising outdoor water use. Here in Upstate South Carolina, our water consumption spikes to double, even quadruple what we use the rest of the year, primarily in an attempt to keep our lawns green and our gardens lush throughout the long, hot summer and into early fall.
The average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, a figure that may rise to 1,000 gallons or more per day in the summer. About 30% of the typical household’s water consumption is devoted to outdoor uses; more than half of that outdoor water is used on lawns and gardens. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.
According to water conservation experts, some 50% of the water we use outdoors is wasted via wind, evaporation or runoff due to overwatering and/or inefficient irrigation methods and systems. With a goal of waste not, want not, keep the following water-saving tips in mind.
Simple Tips for Outdoor Water Conservation
There are a number of simple steps you can take to promote a healthier lawn and garden with less water this summer:
Step On It: It’s usually not necessary to water grass every day just because it’s hot out. Instead, test your lawn by stepping on a patch of grass; if it 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.
Go Native: Further your water savings by using regionally appropriate plants to create a water-smart landscape that is both beautiful and efficient. Once established, native plants require little water beyond normal rainfall.
Leave It Long: Raise your lawn mower blade. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation and fewer weeds.
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.
Homes with automatic irrigation systems can use about 50 percent more water outdoors than those without them. Here are some tips for keeping water use under control:
Timing Is Everything: Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility can offer recommendations for how much water certain plants need and best times to water. Generally, it’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and late evening because significant amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.
Look for the WaterSense® Label: If your system uses a clock timer, consider upgrading to a WaterSense-labeled controller – a product that acts like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health.
Go with a Pro: Contractors certified through a WaterSense-labeled program can audit, install or maintain home irrigation systems to ensure water isn’t wasted. Be sure to ask for credentials. Hiring a WaterSense-certified professional to perform regular maintenance on your irrigation system can reduce irrigation water usage by 15 percent, or nearly 9,000 gallons annually.
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.
Play Zone Defense: When planting, assign areas of your landscape different hydrozones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers, then adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. This helps you avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.
Visit WaterSense online for more tips on reducing outdoor water use.
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