How to Conserve Water Outdoors
Warm weather is here. The blossoms are blooming and the grass is growing. It’s time for outdoor watering and mowing. Or is it? The EPA estimates that US residences use more than 9 billion gallons of water each day, mostly for outdoor irrigation, and 50% of it lost to inefficient watering methods. As you’ve read on the Conserve Water initiative, fresh water is a finite resource. Since we cannot live without it, conserving it is extremely important. Here are easy ways to conserve water outdoors to lower your eco footprint, save you time, and save you money on your water bill.
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29 Ways You Can Conserve Water Outdoors
1.Avoid high-arching sprinklers. Sprinklers can waste 30 to 50% of water through evaporation before it hits the ground. If you must have a sprinkler system, use sprinkler heads that keep the water low to the ground to mitigate evaporation and conserve water outdoors.
2. Use a drip irrigation system so the water stays on the ground, using less water. You can pay a landscaper to install a drip irrigation kit or simply use a porous soaker hose. When placed correctly, water only seeps into the ground and not onto hardscaped areas like driveways and sidewalks, conserving water outdoors. Water is meant to keep things alive. Concrete, bricks and the like cannot die so why waste water on them?
3. Free up your time while conserving water with a a system timer. Timers can be powered by windup, battery or solar – even better!
4. Use a system water sensor also saves you time. Sensors are designed to turn off your system once an adequate amount of water has been provided and can keep it off for days until water is needed again.
5. Water outdoors only in the morning and early evening or night to mitigate evaporation.
6. When using a hose, make sure it has an automatic shut-off valve.
8. If you can swing it, consider watering your outdoors with grey water – non potable water from your laundry or kitchen. This could take some time to set up, but could conserve water outdoors for a long time to come. Confirm first your state and local codes allow use of grey water for outdoor irrigation.
9. Use your dehumidifier water. Living in a humid area, I have to run my Energy Star dehumidifier in my home. When the water bucket is full, I’ll use it to water my plants!
10. Use outdoor water in the mornings or evenings when the days will be coolest causing less water evaporation.
11. When planting, do so in the spring or fall when the plants will be needing less water to take root.
12. Xeriscaping your yard can reduce or fully eliminate the need for outdoor watering. Imagine ditching the lawn completely and never have to mow again!
13. Reduce your lawn size with water resistant plants. Again, save yourself time and money with less lawn mowing.
14. If you are maintaining plants that require water, plant them in groups by their zone so each group watered by your drip irrigation and timer are being watered efficiently.
15. If you must have a lawn, let mother nature do as much as the heavy ‘water-lifting’ as possible. This goes for all outdoor plants, actually. Also, don’t be afraid to stretch out the days you water it. It’s ok to let grass turn brown – it will revive itself after the next rainfall.
If the grass bounces back after you step on it, it doesn’t need to be watered!
16. Set your lawnmower to no lower than 2 inches. This provides for slightly higher blades of grass that provide natural shade to keep water in the ground.
17. Do like I do and forget the lawnmower bag. Let the clippings stay on the grass. This, too, keeps the grass saturated longer preventing more watering. It also saves you a ton of time emptying those bags of clippings!
18. A layer of mulch around plants not only keeps in water moisture it also prevents weeds from growing. Weeds just suck up more water. A once or twice layering of organic mulch can also save you loads of time pulling weeds.
19. Although fertilizer can promote lawn growth, it can also cause the lawn to use more water, not to mention many fertilizers can be toxic (I’m not sure why these are still legal). If you use fertilizer, use it to a minimum and make it organic to maintain the health of your family, birds and other wildlife that may come into contact with it.
20. Do weeding by hand. This eliminates the need for any toxic pesticides as well as keeps the plant base minimal for less water usage.
Saving weeding time by either laying down damp newspapers around the plants under your mulch, or use an easy DIY non-toxic weed removal solution like a half gallon of vinegar, 1 cup salt and a few drops of dish soap. I use it this solution and it works wonders!
21. Fix leaks between hoses and outdoor faucets.
22. If you have a sprinkler system you cannot replace, do regular maintenance checks so there are also no cracks or leaks and all sprinkler heads point to the plants and not hardscaped surfaces to conserve water outdoors.
23. Ensuring your landscaping equipment runs well can prevent overrunning your equipment, saving its useful life. This includes keeping all lawnmower and pruning blades sharp.
For landscaping equipment, those that use an extension cord or two, or a re-chargeable battery, electric is the way to go! Electric devices eliminate the need for fossil fuel (gas), which produces nasty fumes and carbon emissions that are bad for your health. Electric devices are also much quieter sparing your ears, your neighbors and the wildlife with zero noise pollution.
24. Like I mentioned above, hardscaped areas do not need water. Dry clean any hardscaped areas with a broom.
25. When not in use, cover pools, spas and hot tubs to prevent water evaporation.
26. Forgo the water toys, like slip and slides, that use continuously running water.
27. Avoid using water fountains, especially on hot days. Yes, they are pretty and can provide a tranquil sound, but they do allow for water evaporation. If need be, run the fountain on cool days and in the mornings and evenings only.
28. Wash your car only when necessary and use a bucket instead of a hose. It saves time and prevents accidentally leaving the water hose running.
29. Adhere to your municipality’s watering guidelines and warnings, especially if you live in an area that may experience droughts.