Are you wasting money while watering your lawn?

Are you wasting money while watering your lawn?

Having a beautiful yard often involves watering your landscaping to keep it thriving. But there are smarter ways to use water, reduce waste and save money on your utility bills.

Runoff is a major culprit when it comes to outdoor water loss. This happens when water meant to nourish your lawn simply flows away down the street. Not only is it a waste of this precious resource, but it can also lead to higher bills as you use more water to compensate.

More water than you might think is lost, according to a study by Texas A&M University researchers.

"We recognize that people are wasting quite a bit of water through runoff," Benjamin Wherley, an assistant professor of crop and soil sciences told the Texas Water Resources Institute. "In our tests, we have found that in many cases, landscapes lose about one-third of the irrigation water to runoff."

Imagine all the cool things water does: it lets you take baths, helps your favorite veggies grow, and is even used by firetrucks to fight fires. But just like your favorite juice box, there's only so much clean water on Earth.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that while many people are taking steps to save water indoors, outdoor water use can have an enormous impact on the total amount of water used by a household.

"Outdoors, especially in the summer, the amount of water used by a household can exceed the amount used for all other purposes in the entire year," the EPA report said. "This is especially true in hot, dry climates."

The report said that gardening and lawn maintenance is the biggest factor in the surge of water use during warmer months.

"Of the estimated 29 billion gallons of water used daily by households in the United States, more than 8.5 billion, or 30 percent, is devoted to outdoor water use. In dry climates, a household's outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent. The majority of this is used for landscaping. In fact, it is estimated that the average American home consumes 58,000 gallons of water outdoors each year, mostly for irrigation."

Here are some recommendations the EPA makes:

  • Use native plant species or plants that can withstand the hot summer sun better. The Texas Agrilife Extension offers a list of Texas Superstar plants that provide beauty and are also better able to take the heat.
  • Group your vegetation in "hydrozones" throughout your yard so you can water those areas accordingly.
  • Maintain healthy soils that can minimize the amount of runoff, absorb water more efficiently and provide the nutrients your lawn needs.
  • Avoid watering during the hottest part of the day, when more of the water will evaporate. Instead, water early in the morning, late in the evening or even during the night.
  • Use mulch, which helps reduce evaporation and runoff and provides an insulation that can help keep your plants at a steady temperature.
  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing off. 
  • Wash the car with water from a bucket, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • If you have a pool, use a cover to reduce evaporation when the pool isn't being used.

While some watering is necessary, of course, it is possible to have a nice-looking yard when focusing on being water efficient.

One key to saving water – and money – is to make sure your irrigation system is efficient. 

Whether you have an automatic sprinkler system or simply move a hose attached to a sprinkler around your yard, there are ways to make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck. Broken sprinkler heads or a hose that has cracks or holes leads to inefficient watering. Also, check the location of the sprinkler. Make sure it is not watering pavement or asphalt.

To determine how much water your sprinkler system is placing on your lawn, the Texas AgriLife Extension office recommends the following method:

  • Place small containers or cans on your lawn in each watering zone. Tuna cans or another similar-sized can is recommended.
  • Run your sprinkler system for 15 minutes in each zone.
  • Measure the depth of the water in each container using a ruler and keep a record of the measurements. The amount you measure (such as 1.5 inches, etc.) multiplied by 4 would give you the amount of water that would be used in an hour. Websites operated by Texas A&M University and the AgriLife Extension can help you determine an efficient watering plan based on this information. For details, visit http://water.tamu.edu/how-long-to-water-lawn/.

The AgriLife Extension office has a website, https://watermyyard.org/#/Location, which helps people know how much to water their yards based on their location and current conditions. For those who live outside of the AgriLife program's service area, the measuring method using cans (mentioned above) can help you determine how much water is needed for your landscape.

By implementing smart strategies like choosing drought-tolerant plants and using mulch, you can create a yard that looks fantastic while minimizing your water usage and keeping your water bill low. And by conserving water, it's like being a superhero for the environment. You're helping to make sure there's enough clean water for everyone and everything to thrive.