Kelly Thompson, Associate Manager, Sustainability

Last July I purchased my first home, and since then I’ve been scouring the place for upgrades that will increase my efficiency to save money long term. I started with easy things like replacing all of the high flow faucet aerators, swapping out 65 watt incandescent lighting for 9.5 watt LEDs, and replacing the existing appliances from the ’90s with ENERGY STAR® qualified models. After all that was complete, I sat back for … about 15 seconds … and then got to work looking for the next project. When it comes to property upgrades, there’s always something to do.

So in my great quest for sustainability, it became pretty apparent that landscaping had to be one of my next tasks. Here are some interesting facts I learned about irrigation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • About 30% (or 7.8 billion gallons) of the water consumed every day in the United States is used outdoors, with the majority of that going to irrigation.
  • A typical household uses 10,000 gallons of water, in addition to rainwater, each year. Imagine what an apartment community or hotel consumes!
  • By planting native landscaping, you could reduce your watering demands by up to 66%.

drought

 

We all know many areas in the U.S. are experiencing drought conditions, so it is obvious why water conservation is essential. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the drought is going to persist and expand in California, the Southwest, and the southern Plains due to dry and warm conditions. According to recent news reports, Southern California would have to rain every day for months to get back to normal reserves. Wow!

From the stats provided by the EPA, you can see that there is a lot of room for improvement. While updating the landscaping at my house, I did a lot of research that I will share with you here. First, take a look at the plants, trees, and grass that you currently have on your property. Do they take a lot of water to keep alive? Do you have to thoroughly water them every day? If so, this blog is for you!

Native Landscapingwater

Native landscaping is the concept of planting species that are naturally occurring to reduce the water and maintenance needed as well as combat soil erosion and preserve resources. Native plants are adapted to the sun, rain, and soil in your area, so they tend to do better, not require fertilizers, and are more resistant to pests and disease. If you aren’t sure what is local to your area, check out this native plant list where you can pick your location then select a link based on what you are interested in.

When planting your new landscaping, be sure to group plants together based on their watering needs. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a flowering shrub that needs moist soil next to a dry cactus or succulent. By doing this you avoid over- and underwatering and save water.

Using the Proper Tools

After I have planted the perfect native plants in my yard, what next? Even though your new landscaping needs less water, it still need some, and that is where irrigation controllers come into play. A controller can be installed to turn on irrigation when it’s least likely to evaporate before hitting the ground, usually between 4 AM and 7 AM, when the air is cool, wind is calm, and sun isn’t too hot yet. One step above that is a WaterSense® certified controller, which turns on and off based on the weather and the current conditions.

Another option to consider is drip irrigation. A soaker hose has a lot of very small holes and is placed along the roots of your plants that need moist soil. The water comes out slowly and very little evaporates because is it not being sprayed into the air. But, as with any type of irrigation, make sure you keep an eye on it to ensure it’s not overwatering or running off onto an impervious surface.

In spring, WaterSense promotes sprinkler spruce-up with these four steps:

  • Inspect your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads and replace where necessary. A broken head can waste 25,000 gallons of water in six months!
  • Connect sprinkler heads tightly to prevent water from pooling in puddles and harming plants. A leak as small as the tip of a pen can waste 6,300 gallons of water per month!
  • Direct sprinklers away from driveways and sidewalks to water only where needed.
  • Select a watering schedule that adjusts with the seasons, or replace your clock timer with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller, which uses local weather data to water only when needed.

 

Renaturalization

Have you heard of something called renaturalization? I hadn’t until recently. It basically means letting your lawn grow as it naturally would, without mowing, raking, or applying fertilizers. Now, this is probably not an option for a majority of you, since I doubt your residents or guests want to see a messy looking property, but what about trying it in a small area to see what happens? You might be surprised to learn what grows naturally in your region.

Do you have any other landscaping tips? How else do you save money with irrigation?

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