Ways to Conserve Outdoor Water Use

 Every drop of water that is conserved is a drop we don’t have to pull from our reservoirs, wells, or municipal water treatment facilities. What is still incredibly cheap – it costs less than $6 for 1,000 gallons in Atlanta. Since there are 128 fluid ounces in a gallon, that calculates to ounce bottles of water – for $.00056 for 12 ounces of water – the same quantity in a typical container of bottled water! But this is about to change, especially in Atlanta. It’s in our own self-interest to focus on doing all we can reasonably do to conserve water that falls on our properties and gets flushed down our storm drains. So here are some ways we can do just that:First: Determine how much water your lawn and garden actually needInstructions:1. Dig a hole, fill the hole with water, and let it drain.2. Fill the hole with water again after the water has drained completely.3. Keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain completely from the hole after the second filling.4. Increase the amount of water you apply to your garden if the soil drains in less than three hours, but Decrease the amount of water if the soil takes longer than eight hours to drain. For more info, see How to Determine How Much Water Your Garden Needs

Second: Establish plan for efficient use of water in your vegetable gardenWater conservation begins with garden planning. Plant only the crops and amounts you will use. Water applied to your lawn and garden is lost in the following ways: Evaporation begins as soon as water is exposed to the atmosphere. Extremely high evaporation results when fine jets of water are sprayed into the air on a hot, dry, windy day. Evaporation then continues from all moist surfaces of the garden until they dry. Transpiration begins when the plant produces its first green leaves. Water is lost from the leaves during the process of obtaining carbon dioxide from the air. Percolation is the downward movement of water through the soil. When too much water is applied, water percolates below the root zone and is lost to the crop. 

Methods of IrrigationSprinkler irrigation is most common among home gardeners. Furrow irrigating with a garden hose is generally not efficient unless the rows are short. Soaker irrigation usually consists of a canvas or rubber composite hose, which attaches to a garden hose at one end and is sealed at the other. Trickle irrigation involves the use of flexible plastic tubing to convey water to the individual plants. MulchesMulches, especially the film types that form a vapor barrier over the soil surface, help prevent evaporation of soil moisture. Pine needles, pine bark, bark chips, etc. are also very helpful in reducing soil evaporation. Amount and Frequency of WaterA plant can use only the moisture in contact with its seed or roots. Therefore, only the soil around the seed needs to be kept moist following planting. After seeds are planted, they may be sprinkled with a hand-held hose until seedlings emerge. Once seedlings emerge, they can do without water for two or more weeks while their roots get established.  For more info, see “Efficient Water Use in the Vegetable Garden”

Third: Establish plan for efficient use of lawn irrigationIt’s important to learn correct lawn irrigation techniques. Here are some tips to help you save water and grow a healthy lawn. 

How to Irrigate: How Much WaterMost lawns need about one inch of water per week. Sandy soils may require more water, heavy soils less. It’s best to water deeply and infrequently. 

When to Water

Morning is the best time to irrigate your lawn. Avoid watering in the middle of the day when more water is lost to evaporation.

New LawnsNewly planted lawns need more frequent irrigation than established lawns. Water enough to keep the soil moist, but not too wet. Lawn Sprinklers and Irrigation SystemsSprinklersYou don’t need an in-ground system to have a nice lawn. A good garden hose and lawn sprinkler will suffice. Select a sprinkler based on yard size and shape. Automatic Lawn Irrigation SystemsAn in-ground lawn irrigation system can save you time. Lugging a garden hose and sprinkler from spot to spot is a lot of work, particularly if you have a large yard. Efficient Use of SystemsAn automated irrigation system can help you water efficiently if it’s used properly, but could make you prone to use more water. Features of SystemsLawn irrigation systems consist of timers, valves, underground PVC piping, and sprinkler heads. Two common types of sprinkler heads are spray heads and rotor heads. Spray heads have a high application rate, meaning they discharge a large volume of water in a short amount of time. Environmental Effects of Lawn IrrigationCareless watering can damage your grass and waste water. Sprinkler runoff flows into storm sewers, carrying soil, pet waste, fertilizers, and other pollutants into nearby lakes and streams. It’s important to practice careful lawn irrigation to keep our plants healthy and our waterways clean. For more information, see Lawn Irrigation