The average American uses 140 to 160 gallons of water per day. And it's not just from long showers or leaving the water on while brushing your teeth; half that amount is used to irrigate the landscape around our homes. That's a lot of wasted water—and money. Water rates are rising as municipalities deal with a water shortage in some areas and infrastructure issues in others. "Water has become just as important a resource as energy," says Enesta Jones, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). Whatever your motivation, it's a good time to conserve.
Log homes need special attention when it comes to water use. Many are second homes that aren't continuously occupied, which can lead to problems if no one is there to notice a faulty automated sprinkler system. Here are some tips to keep up on your outdoor-water conservation this spring:
Use Smart Controls
The use of "smart" technology is entering the lawn sprinkler industry. New systems allow you to plug in information about the types of plants you're watering, the slope of your terrain as well as the weather and soil to develop an ideal watering plan. Soil moisture is automatically measured, and if it rains, the system takes that into account before directing the sprinklers to water an area so nothing becomes too saturated.
Install Targeted Irrigation
Many plants are easily irrigated with drip water systems, which use up to 50 percent less water than a regular sprinkler system. "I use them at my home, and they're easy to install," says Kathleen Hennessy, a spokesperson for The Toro Company, a manufacturer of landscape maintenance equipment. "You no longer have to worry about overwatering. And they can be hooked up to a sprinkler controller, so they work when you're not around."
Conduct a Pressure Test
If the water pressure for your irrigation system is too high, water can "mist" away and evaporate without benefiting your landscape. You may need to install a pressure regulator (available at home-supply stores) to maintain the optimum pressure to work with your system.
Recycle the Rain
With the boom in environmentally friendly and organic gardening, many companies have introduced systems to collect rainwater from a roof to use for irrigation, such as having it drain down a water chain into a barrel, preferably one with a lid to keep bugs out and a faucet attachment that fits a hose.
Look for the Label
Conceived by the EPA, the WaterSense label is assigned to products that meet a rigorous standard of conservation and will help save you money in the long term. "It's similar to the Energy Star program for appliances," says Enesta.
Watch the Lawn
Grass is a notorious water-guzzler, but there are ways to keep your lawn healthy and water-wise. Set your mower blade to cut higher, because taller grass uses less water. (Taller grass will also have a better root system and keep soil cooler in the summer.) Also, consider a mulching mower, which produces mulch to help insulate the grass and keep the soil moist.
Check for Rebates
In addition to receiving savings on your water bill, updating your irrigation system can also bring you special credits and rebates from your utility or local government. Check with your water company for details and deadlines.
Looking for more gardening tips? Learn how to have a greener lawn.