Don’t Water Your Sidewalk and Save Some Money This Summer

By Rickie Harvey
As published on westroxbury.patch.com
July 3, 2011

You may have noticed in some of the surrounding towns such as Dedham that voluntary water conservation measures are currently in force. While we in West Roxbury are fortunate enough that our water comes from the Quabbin Reservoir—the largest manmade body of water in New England—so that our water supply is not presently in jeopardy of running low, it still behooves all of us to conserve this natural resource and to use it wisely—and of course doing so also helps you save money. Here are some water-saving tips on how to use water effectively this summer as you are keeping your grass green and your flowers blooming.

Consider conserving water this summer by watering your lawn only in the early morning or late at night (to avoid high rates of mid-day evaporation) and not relying on automated sprinklers, which typically use 20 to 30 percent more water than handheld hoses. If you employ an automated system for watering, be sure to install a rain or soil moisture sensor that turns off the water when it isn’t needed (it is difficult to think of a bigger waste of water and money than watering during a rainstorm).

By the way, you actually needn’t worry if your grass turns brown—grass naturally becomes dormant in hot, dry weather. The lawn will revive and return to green when the temperatures cool off or after a steady rain.

The kinds of flowers and plants you choose also can affect the amount of water you need and how efficiently you use it. Plant low-water use varieties and lay down mulch to keep the roots cool and moist. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority provides a list of low-water-use plants at its Web site. Try to cluster together plants that need lots of moisture for efficient watering. It helps to pay attention to the various zones in your yard—where it is sunniest/hottest versus shadier and cooler. Select plants that thrive in these areas accordingly. One easy way to prevent runoff, which wastes water, is to poke holes in the ground around plants and flowers to help capture water.

The best way to water plants and flowers is at ground level, through a soaker hose, in a process called drip irrigation. Sprinklers deliver as much as 400 gallons per hour, which is more than the soil can absorb before runoff and evaporation occur. In addition, the water doesn’t penetrate deep enough to moisten the roots. (If you do set up a sprinkler, check to make sure water is falling only on your garden or lawn, not wasting water needlessly by catching the sidewalk or driveway.) Drip irrigation delivers water slowly and in the right amount, with no evaporation or runoff. It also discourages weeds by not watering where you have no plants.

Soaker hoses use between 30 and 50 percent less water than sprinklers, so they save you money as well as conserve water. Available at True Value on Centre Street, soaker hoses are perforated with thousands of tiny holes out of which water seeps slowly. You can place soaker hoses along the top of the ground or bury them just under the soil or mulch. Compare different kinds of soaker hoses by their ratings, which indicate how many gallons of water per hour per foot each one releases.

Project Evergreen lists composting as one of the five easiest ways to improve your lawn and garden. Not only does composting enrich your soil, it cuts down on your trash, which helps the environment by not ending up in landfills. All kinds of items can regenerate your soil, including coffee grounds, filters, and dryer lint when combined with yard clippings, wood chips, and leaves. Composting provides the soil with nutrient-filled materials that help it maintain moisture, which again means you can conserve on water and keep your water bills down this summer. If you are interested in learning more about home composting, be sure to attend WRSE’s upcoming event, “Composting 101” at the West Roxbury library on July 7 at 7 pm.

Think about cultivating your “green” thumb this summer by following some of these tips; by taking a few easy, thoughtful steps, you can conserve water, have a beautiful yard, and save money.