How to Achieve an Attractive, Water-Efficient Landscape That’s Good for You and Your Community

By Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency

You’ve heard it before. Water scarcity is becoming a concern in many communities, with water resources strained by changing weather patterns, economic activity and population growth. What you may not know is that outdoor irrigation is often the largest use of water at home. It’s easy to waste water outdoors, from practices that cause overwatering to malfunctioning irrigation systems and broken sprinkler heads.  

In fact, according to the EPA, the average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined.

Despite this, achieving a healthy, attractive garden or lawn doesn’t have to mean contributing to the problem. Many communities are helping their residents and homeowners use less water outdoors through education and product rebates.

These efforts not only help residents achieve the landscape they want while saving money on their water bills; they help support long-term water sustainability in their community.

Use water wisely

Here are a few tips on how you can do your part to use water wisely at home and help keep your local water resources healthy and abundant.

Tips for watering wisely:

  • Don’t set and forget! If an irrigation system is used, make sure it is properly set up and maintained.
  • Install a weather-based SMART irrigation controller instead of a timer.  
  • Install and maintain a rain sensor, either wireless or wired, on the irrigation controller if it does not have one built-in.
  • Regularly inspect the sprinkler heads to make sure they are not damaged, leaking, or malfunctioning.
  • Don’t let sprinklers water paved surfaces such as the sidewalk or driveway.
  • If watering with a hose, make sure it has a shut-off nozzle.
  • Don’t water the lawn or plants during the heat of the day, or when it is windy.  

Make smart plant choices:

  • Use native plants or plants that require little water to thrive in your region.
  • Plant turf grass in areas where people will use it actively for recreation.
  • Consider drought-tolerant turf grass if you live in an arid or drought-prone area.
  • Organize your landscape into hydro-zones. Hydro-zones are areas of landscape with plant and vegetation that have similar water requirements. This prevents over-watering some plants and under-watering others.
  • Irrigate hydrozones based upon the plants’ water needs.
  • Keep soil healthy and add mulch to prevent water loss through evaporation.

Ways to save water wisely at home

You can find a comprehensive guide to landscape and irrigation design and maintenance on AWE’s Home Water Works site.

Make sure you’re also getting information and updates from your water provider about how to best adjust your watering habits to support your community.  Many offer workshops and demonstration gardens to help make changes easy.

Innovative landscape designs for the sustainable use of water

Want to do even more to contribute to sustainable water use where you live?

There are innovative ways to design landscapes that support stormwater management, groundwater recharge, and other community objectives. Talk to your local water provider to identify resources and professionals who can help you make these kinds of changes.  

Whether you have a sprawling lawn or a collection of native plants, start thinking about how your outdoor space contributes to your community’s long-term water resources. Every change you make at home to increase your outdoor water efficiency is good for both your wallet and the community you call home.