Consider Drip Irrigation

Many households spend half of their water outside, on their lawn and garden, says Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty, director of Wholly H20, a San Francisco-based company that helps homeowners and businesses find better ways to manage water.

“Turf is the most irrigated crop in the United States,” Dougherty says. “Aside from corn, grass is the thing we water the most, and let me tell you, grass is generally one or two species, and it doesn’t support a lot of biodiversity.”

If you’re someone who loves a lush lawn and garden, consider using drip irrigation. Rather than a hose or a sprinkler system, you use flexible polyethylene tubing equipped with water-dripping emitters and low-volume micro-sprays. With this system, you’re still watering everything– you’re just doing it slowly and exactly where it needs to be done, minimizing not just water evaporation but the runoff, if you use chemicals on your lawn.

Collect and Reuse Rainwater

Like a lot of water conservation methods, you can go big here, or small. You can simply have a rain barrel placed anywhere in your yard — though at the end of rain gutter is a logical choice — and as it collects water, you can use that to water your plants. Or you can be a little more elaborate and not just have one barrel, but several, and have pipes running from them to your garden and then use a pump to spray your lawn or garden. One company, Rainwater HOGs, can professionally install modular tanks to catch and store your rainwater.

Typically, a rain barrel holds about 55 to 80 gallons of rainwater and works best in areas that tend to get a lot of rain, like the Pacific Northwest or the Midwest.

Landscape to Prevent Overwatering

Xeriscaping is landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce the need for additional irrigation. Here are some tips:

  • Choose draught-resistant plants and plants that do well in arid regions (though keep in mind that you should stick with plants native to your area).
  • Batch plants together so that flowers, bushes or trees that need a lot of water are all together, while those that don’t require too much are somewhere else in the yard. That way you aren’t giving one plant the ideal amount of water and overwatering its neighbor.

It may sound complicated, but you end up with a beautiful landscape. “Being waterwise doesn’t mean you have to suffer. You can still have a lush and yummy yard,” says Dougherty, whose Southern California home features a lot of bamboo and fruit trees. “You just have to be willing to adjust and see the beauty in other things, plants that you may not be used to.”

“Learn about the native plants around you and propagate the pretty or useful ones in your own dirt,” Fey encourages. “Mimic the best of the natural environment. It is easy to learn to propagate from seeds and cuttings for free plants. Visit a nursery and ask them what you can plant that won’t need to be watered. It seems pretty silly that people overwater their yards and then have to work hard clearing out the extra yard waste. Xeriscaping provides a yard which needs nearly no maintenance, looks good all year and attracts local birds.”


Be Sensible

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of transporting your kitchen water to your toilet or microspraying your plants through an irrigation drip, just remember that the most effective method of saving water doesn’t come from pipes, it comes from you.

For instance, if you have to run the shower until it gets hot but don’t want to buy a recirculation pump, stick a bucket in the shower and use what you collect to water your lawn or plants. One water conservation company actually has a bucket, Pour It Forward BUXX, especially designed for doing just that. Other practical tips: turn off the faucet if you’re not using the water, like when you brush your teeth or while preparing a meal.

“The best bang for anybody’s buck is use your head. It’s the least sexy of options,” Doughtery says, “but ask yourself, ‘Do I really need to turn on my kitchen sink full blast to wash that apple? Should I really walk away from the water filling the pot, so I can check on my kids, and then come back, and it’s overflowing into the sink? That’s a lot of water right there.”