Did you know that most living areas are regularly overwatered by 30-40%? When you use water for irrigation, not only is it economical to use only what your garden needs, but it also conserves water for other uses during our long, dry summers. If left unchecked, wasteful irrigation can be a large consumer of valuable drinking water sources such as local aquifers and the Russian River. Here are some helpful steps you can take to reduce your dependency on drinking water for irrigation:
Grow native plants
The reason native plants are “native” is because they have adapted to their local environment and found their niche in terms of coping with seasonal climate changes. Many of these native plants require no watering at all and have adapted to long stretches without any additional watering! Incorporating these plants into your landscape and garden can drastically reduce water usage. As a bonus, these native plants serve as a haven for beneficial insects, native plants and animals, benefiting and sustaining our local ecosystems.
Visit www.rrwatershed.org/project/rrflg for Russian river friendly landscaping resources and information on choosing Russian river friendly plants.
Historically, lawns have been places for relaxation and socializing among friends and family, however, lawns require a significant amount of water to remain healthy during long dry seasons. In addition, many lawns are often treated with toxic herbicides and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions when maintained with a petrol-powered lawnmower. Replacing some (or all) of your existing lawn with mulch and native plants increases water use efficiency, encourages on-site water infiltration, and reduces your overall water usage.
Use alternative sources of water
With a little ingenuity, drinking water from your hose or faucet doesn’t have to be the only source of watering for your garden or landscape. Rainwater and gray water are both excellent sources of irrigation that can be used to replace drinking water consumption. Water that normally falls onto your roof is diverted away from your property and to your local rainwater collection system. However, this water can be diverted to on-site storage tanks for later use as an irrigation source. Gray water from sinks, showers and washing machines, while not potable, also serves as an excellent source of irrigation as long as your gray water system complies with local regulations.
Check your watering methods
The final piece of advice is to review your own watering methods. This means critically analyzing how and when you irrigate your landscape to identify key areas that can be improved in terms of water efficiency. Are you watering your landscape manually with a hose? Consider using a hose barb with a built-in shut-off trigger to prevent wasting water when moving between plants. Do you irrigate your landscape with a drip system? Check for leaks regularly, especially near areas of erosion or overgrowth. A closer look at your average watering practices will undoubtedly reveal some areas where water efficiency can be improved!
According to the American Water Works Association, 85% of all landscape problems are caused by overwatering. The next time your home garden isn’t producing the results you expect, it can be beneficial to take some time to analyze how you normally water. When you water to meet the needs of your landscape, you may find that not only do your plants stay healthy and thriving all year round, but you also save on running costs while reducing your carbon footprint!
This article was written by Josh Steiner, RRWA contributor. RRWA is an association of local public bodies in the Russian River basin that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration and river basin improvement.