By Staff Writer Susannah Kopecky.
August: the third official month of summer, and a month infamous for its high temperatures. And as often happens with high heat and a lower average rainfall, the late summer months see a corresponding increase in water use comes. While we cannot change the temperature, we can amend our water use practices this summer. What comes to mind when water conservation is the topic at hand? You might be surprised to learn that water conservation entails better and more efficient practices both inside and outside of the home. Some experts have estimated that at least half, if not the majority, of home water use is dedicated to outdoor usage. Let’s focus specifically on straightforward and perhaps creative ways to save water in the garden this summer.
- Capitalize on natural advantages: when can you use a smaller amount of water and make it last for a long time? Water Use It Wisely recommends “[w]ater[ing] your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.” Particularly in the heat, it is far more efficient to water your plants and garden early in the day.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Becoming familiar with native plants can help you to save water. Xeriscaping is one way to sustainably save water and have a thriving garden. According to Sustainable Resources, Xeriscaping involves “quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment.” Oftentimes this is accomplished by planting plants which are native to an environment and/or which have a low water need already. By embracing the art of Xeriscape, one can save considerable amounts of water in the garden.
- Take it a step further, and be aware of your soil. As the City of San Luis Obispo Utilities points out, “Understanding your soil is vital to implementing effective irrigation.” Doing a little bit of legwork can go a considerable way, when it comes to determining what kind of soil you have to work with, and what plants will be best suited for it, in terms of water need. The City of San Luis Obispo points out that by better understanding the type of soil residents have to work with, they are better prepared to “increase the effectiveness of applied water.” Noting that there is a “high percentage of clay” soil within the town, the city offers tips on how to stretch water in a clay-high environment, such as through watering “deeply,” watering “infrequently” and “adding organic matter” to “directly increase the water holding capacity” of the clay soil.
- Collect water in a bucket when watering your garden, and/or know exactly what you need to water and how much, rather than simply turning on the hose and milling about the garden. Though a straightforward technique, it might surprise you just how much water can be saved if you plan ahead exactly what you want to water.
- Install a drip irrigation system. Colorado State University defines drip irrigation as a “technology [that] uses a network of plastic pipes to carry a low flow of water under low pressure to plants” and which sends out water “much more slowly than with sprinkler irrigation.” CSU also claims that this system of irrigation “exceeds 90 percent efficiency whereas sprinkler systems are 50 to 70 percent efficient.”
- Another option to consider is installing a smart sprinkler controller. Smart sprinkler controllers an efficient and cost-effective way to save both water and money (in the long-term). Smart sprinkler controllers and drip irrigation systems are both useful alternatives to outdated sprinkler systems which are not closely regulated for water use.