In warmer weather we spend more time outdoors irrigating our lawns, caring for our gardens, and washing our vehicles. To help conserve water and save money when your outdoor water-usage increases, here are some tips to follow:
Lawns and Plants
- Start practicing sustainable landscaping. You can find information at Grow Green on how to design sustainable landscapes for conserving water and protecting the environment.
- Make use of unglazed clay pots or ollas to irrigate bedded plants. Seal any drainage holes, and bury the pots, leaving the neck exposed. Fill the pots with water, then cover. Place the plants within a 36-inch diameter to the olla. The water will seep through the clay slowly and irrigate the surrounding plants. Refill the pots once or twice a week.
- Choose drought-tolerant native and adapted plants, and arrange them according to similar sun and water needs. Also, choose plants that will thrive under the particular site conditions. See The Best Drought Tolerant Grasses in Texas.
- Plant a grass type suitable to the climate, soil, and environment (shade or sun) that requires the least amount of water.
- Don’t plant grass in narrow or oddly-shaped strips, or on steep slopes. These are hard to irrigate and waste water. Shrubs and groundcover are better for these areas.
- At least once a year aerate your lawn so water can reach the roots. The best time for warm-season grasses is late spring or early summer. For cool-season grasses, aerate early in the fall.
- Be sure to never aerate in an area that is drip irrigation, as it will destroy the drip tubing as it’s only a inch or so below the surface.
- Plant in cooler temperatures. It’s not as stressful for the plants, and they won’t need as much water.
- Keep your grass at its highest optimum mowing height for its type. This encourages deeper root growth and reduces moisture loss by shading the soil.
- Make sure plants are getting the right amount of water by measuring the soil moisture depth first. Use a shovel or trowel to dig into the soil. If the top 2 or 3 inches are dry, it’s time to water. You can also use a soil moisture meter.
- Use hose-end sprinklers with a timer to prevent over-watering.
- Place 2 to 4 inches of organic material, such as mulch or finished compost, around trees and plants to help maintain soil moisture and prevent weeds. Avoid runoff by creating a depression in the mulch or compost around the drip line of each plant.
- Keep garden beds weed-free to avoid plant competition and excess water consumption.
- Top dress your grass with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to increase soil health. Healthier soil holds more water.
- Bathe pets outside in areas where the grass needs watering.
- Use a rainwater harvesting system or rain barrel to gather rainwater from your gutters. You may qualify for rebates from Austin Water.
- Regularly inspect your system for any leaks or needed repairs. A thorough inspection should be done by a licensed irrigator in the spring, summer, and fall to ensure your system is running efficiently.
- Check the watering schedule for your designated day and times.
- Program your controller for the zone conditions in order to apply the correct amount of water (e.g. reduce irrigation in shaded areas). Smart Earth can help you with the settings.
- Install rain/freeze or soil moisture add-on sensors to conserve water.
- Start irrigating with shorter times, and increase if you notice stressed grass areas.
- Avoid wasting water and reduce evaporation by irrigating early in the morning when wind speeds and temperatures are lower.
- Lawns need no more than 1 inch of water each week during the summer. This includes rainfall.
- Your lawn needs less water in the spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler.
- Make sure the sprinklers aren’t watering sidewalks, paved areas, fences, or the side of the house. Readjust sprinkler heads spraying into tall shrubs and grass.
- After mowing, ensure sprinklers weren’t knocked out of alignment or the heads broken off.
- Drip irrigation is the most efficient method for delivering water directly to the roots of bedded plants, trees, and shrubs.
- You may be eligible for rebates when you improve your irrigation system’s water efficiency.
- Austin Water offers a free irrigation system evaluation for customers using 20,000 gallons in 2 consecutive months, or 25,000 gallons in one month during the current irrigation season. Directions and a form are also available for a self-audit.
- Hire a licensed irrigator to help you choose the most efficient irrigation methods for turf, trees, shrubs and bedded plants.
Vehicles and Surfaces
- Save hundreds of gallons of water by washing your vehicle at a commercial car wash that recycles water.
- When washing your vehicle at home, use a bucket of soapy water and a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
- Switch to a waterless cleaning product to wash your vehicle.
- Use a broom rather than a hose to clean the driveway and sidewalk.
- Don’t use water toys requiring a constant flow of water.
- When children want to cool off by running through the sprinkler, place it on a dry area of grass.
- Put children’s water toys on dry grass areas.
- Avoid splashing, water fights, and diving to reduce water loss from splash-out.
- Do a regular check for cracks and leaks. Using a grease pencil, mark the water level at the skimmer. Check the level 24 hours later. If the pool has lost more than 1/4 inch of water, there may be a leak.
- Cover your pool when not in use to reduce evaporation and the need for chemicals. A cover will also keep debris out. Rebates for a new pool cover are available from Austin Water.
- Prevent wind evaporation by surrounding the pool with shrubs or fences.
- Reduce evaporation from heated pools by lowering the water temperature a few degrees.
- Pools should only be refilled for water quality reasons. Maintaining proper chemical levels and circulation will decrease the number of times you have to drain the pool.
- Reduce the amount of water splashed out by filling the pool a few inches lower than normal.
- Prevent overfilling the pool when topping off by using a hose timer.
- Inspect and maintain auto fillers.
- Clean the pool with a pool vacuum that recycles water.
- Backwash pool filters only when necessary. Instead, try doing it manually.
Call the licensed irrigators at Smart Earth Sprinklers at 512-694-1147 or contact us online for your sprinkler system inspection, repair, and maintenance needs.