For some, the American dream is to live in a big house with an emerald green lawn in front and a shimmering pool out back. From a water conservation standpoint, this picture is more like a nightmare!
Maintaining a green lawn can be a massive drain of water. Irrigating a 1,000 square foot lawn with just a half an inch of water takes about 330 gallons!
In dry regions like the American Southwest, people who want green grass have to water a lot because there’s not much rainfall. On top of that, temperatures get hot, so evaporation happens quickly, before most of the water is absorbed. In such arid places, lawn care accounts for about one-half of household water use. That’s a serious concern considering that the region’s primary water sources, like the Colorado River and Sierra Nevada Mountains, are drying up due to overuse and drought.
Residents of the Southwest aren’t alone, though. Many of us across the nation water our lawns during dry spells and droughts, even though it puts additional burden on our already strained water supplies. In fact, residential water use in the US peaks during the summertime, mainly because of watering the lawn.
No matter where you live, it’s important to think about water conservation when you're taking care of your yard. A well-managed yard not only uses less water, it can also significantly cut down on downstream water pollution from using too much fertilizer and pesticides.
A great way to think beyond grass when you landscape is to plant more native species that flourish in your local climate.
Swimming pools are also a major outdoor water user. The average pool takes about 18,000 gallons of water to fill (find out how to calculate your pool’s volume). An uncovered pool can lose 1,000 gallons a month or more to evaporation if you live in an arid area. Over the course of a year, that adds up 30,000 gallons (and a lot of money on your water bill) if you refill it each year. If it seems like your pool loses a lot of water, it might have a leak (here’s an easy way to find out).
Heated pools use even more water, because thermoelectric power plants across the US withdraw billions of gallons of water each year into their cooling systems.
When you cover your pool, you save 30 to 50 percent of the water that would otherwise evaporate and 50 to 70 percent of the heating energy lost from an uncovered pool. Those are two great reasons to keep your pool covered when it’s not being used.
Washing your car can help preserve its life, but if you wash your car at home, you’re probably using a lot of water to get your car clean (about 100 gallons, on average) and you’re sending all that accumulated dirt and grease into the gutters and your local waterways. Automatic and full-service car washes are a better option all around because they use much less water (15 to 60 gallons) and anything that comes off your car will go down the drain to a wastewater treatment plant. Some car washes even recycle their water.
No matter how you use water outside, a little bit of planning can curb waste and save you money!
Las Vegas has cracked down on thirsty lawns. The city and county water authorities have set limits on how many square feet of lawn each house can have, and rebates are available up to $1.50 for each square foot of turf grass that is replaced with desert landscaping.