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Tips for Water Conservation in Landscapes



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Water efficiently.
A truly efficient way to use water in a yard is to design a landscape that exists predominantly on rainfall. Even with lawn and specialty gardens, it is possible to design it as a low-water, low-maintenance yard. However, even an ideal landscape can be over-watered. It is extremely important to only irrigate to meet the needs of the plants in that area. For example, a lawn in full sun will demand more frequent irrigation than an established plant bed of drought-tolerant shrubs and groundcovers.

Reduce stormwater runoff.
Keeping rain and sprinkler water on your yard, and out of storm drains, reduces pollution of our shared streams, bays, rivers and lakes...and even the ocean downstream from you. Runoff can be reduced by directing downspouts onto lawns or landscaped beds, using rain barrels to collect rain water for irrigation and using pervious materials such as gravel or mulch for driveways and paths.

Protect the waterfront.
Natural water features, such as a stream or lake make a special contribution to our quality of life, but these natural treasures are also very fragile. Create a 10-foot-to-20-foot "buffer zone" to the shoreline where no chemicals are applied, and where you remove invasive exotic plants and replace with appropriate natives or other non-invasive exotics.  In fact, it's smart to remove exotic, invasive plants everywhere! 

Select plants that require less water.
Many of these will likely be native or low-water plants. An additional benefit to using native plants is that they tend to attract local wildlife. Many native plants survive only on rainfall -- and that reduces your water bill, and the impact on our fresh water supply.

Native and other "climate appropriate" landscape materials can reduce irrigation water use by more than 50%.

Water efficiently.
Large amounts of water are consumed by watering landscapes. Efficient watering or irrigation practices are essential to conserve water. Over watering not only reduces our fresh water supply but can result in excess water run-off carrying fertilizers and pollutants into our streams, bays, lakes and rivers.

Over watering can also result in disease such as fungus and in the excessive growth of weeds and pests. Signs of over watering include dollar weed, root and leaf disease, and thatch buildup. Too much water promotes weak growth and that increases pruning and mowing.

Less frequent watering encourages deeper root development and healthier turf. Using chemicals to combat the results of over watering contributes to stormwater runoff and lake and well pollution.

Use the most efficient irrigations methods.
Use trickle, drip or soaker hose irrigation systems where possible. They use less water than sprinklers and are particularly effective in areas that require more water such as trees or gardens.

When sprinklers are used, select one that releases water slowly and close to the ground in contrast to one that releases a mist which tends to evaporate more easily. Place sprinklers at the top of sloped areas so that the water that does run away ends up watering the entire slope.

Irrigation heads should be aligned with the areas that they are intended to water.

Use the best choices for watering.

  • Sprinklers for Lawns
  • Bubblers for Trees
  • Drip Irrigation for Gardens and Shrubs
  • Soaker Hoses for Flower Beds and Ground Covers
Don't forget to turn drip or soaker hoses off.
A timer will help eliminate this frequently occurring problem. Irrigation systems also can be metered and set to deliver a specified amount of water. New irrigation systems are facing increasing legal requirements to comply with water conservation measures.  One frequent requirement is a rain shut-off device or sensor that will override the system if sufficient amounts of rain have fallen.

Check irrigation systems for leaks.
If water drips or leaks from a faucet after being turned off, it could mean that the washer is worn out and needs replacing or the faucet may be broken. The washer can be replaced by the maintenance staff.

  • Use washers between faucets or spigots and water hoses to reduce the loss of water between connections.
  • Check your hoses for punctures.
  • Repair punctures with duct or electrician's tape or by splicing (connectors can be found at hardware or home supply stores).
  • When using a hand hose to water new plantings, use a nozzle to control the amount of water used.

Watering Times
The best time to water is during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speeds are at their lowest. Water evaporates quickly in the heat of the day. When it is windy, water may not reach targeted areas or may fall unevenly onto paved areas. If you cannot water in the early morning hours, the next best time to water is in the early evening.

Check local regulation for watering times.
Become familiar with the watering restrictions in your city or water district. Standard restrictions frequently include no irrigation between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. There may be additional restrictions, especially during drought conditions. Check with your local water management district and local utility for seasonal changes, and emergency regulations that can be put into effect rapidly.

Check soil before watering.
Before watering, check the soil below the surface.  There may be moisture below the surface. There are tools (such as soil probes or soil sampling tubes) that can be used to obtain soil samples to check for moisture.

Water the lawn only when needed.
Signs that grass needs watering are: edges of the blades will begin to roll, fold or look wilted; grass will not spring back when you step on it; or the color changes from bright green to dull gray-green or blue.

Water thoroughly, slowly and less often.
Lawns should be watered so that the soil is moist to a depth of four to six inches. It is better to water your lawn thoroughly (so water reaches the root systems) once each week than to water it lightly each day. Watering lightly could actually harm your lawn because only the surface, rather than the roots, may be reached. Watering should be done slowly to avoid runoff. When the soil has high clay content, it will absorb water slowly. Sandy soil absorbs water quickly but won't retain moisture. Adding organic material will help correct these problems. Spread several inches of mulch, such as wood chips, pine straw or leaves. Shaping the mulch and soil around trees or other large plants into basins will help catch and retain water.

To learn more about water conservation specifically in Florida, visit the University of Florida


Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green

Publication Date: 1/9/2009
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