If you want to live in the southwestern United States, you need to know about water conservation because there isnít much rainfall or snowfall, especially in the two southernmost states of Arizona and New Mexico as well as the desert state of Nevada. The few rivers and streams that exist are already heavily tapped for irrigation and city water needs. It is irresponsible to insist on having a big Midwestern-style lawn when you are living in a drought-prone area in the southwest. Instead of trying to change the desert, embrace it and learn to live within it and appreciate its stark, dry beauty. Water conservation can be divided into indoor and outdoor water use, and this article concentrates on outdoor use.
- Abandon all desire to have a lawn and use xeriscaping to transform your front yard into a drought-resistant paradise. Think about it. Most people maintain their front yards as a static showpiece landscape while playing and relaxing in the privacy of their backyards. If you must have a lawn, put a small one in your backyard. Xeriscaping isnít necessarily the same thing as so-called ďzero-scaping,Ē or gravel and cactus only. You can install in your front yard some beautiful native grasses and flowers such as blue flax, Indian paintbrush, yarrow, wheatgrass, and yucca that need little water, and can survive a period of drought. These desert plants will bring much color to your yard, and your xeriscaping will make you eligible for a rebate or some other financial reward from your cityís public utilities office. Check your city government website for details.
- If you absolutely must have a lawn, donít water it in the winter. Let it go dormant. In the summer, only water it every five days. Adjust the blade-height of your lawnmower so that you leave the grass three or four inches long after each cutting instead of tightly manicured. This will shade the root system from the scorching sun and hold moisture better after each watering.
- Use mulch such as bark chips as a top layer around your plants to hold in moisture after watering. The mulch will also reduce the occurrence of weeds sprouting in your plant beds.
- Instead of high-spraying sprinklers, irrigate your yard with water-efficient systems such as bubblers, a drip system, or soaker hoses that trickle the water directly onto the plants rather than tossing it in the air to be evaporated by the hot winds.
- Use your water-efficient irrigation system before 10:00 A.M. in the morning or after sundown in the evening to reduce the sunís evaporative effect.
- Check the gaskets in your outdoor faucets and hoses. You should have no leaks or drips. If you do, it will probably be right where your hose connects to the outdoor faucet. If you still have a slight leak after all your adjustments, put a plastic planter-bowl underneath the faucet and set a brick in its center to keep it from blowing away in the wind. When it catches water, the wild birds can stand on the rim or the brick and drink water and bathe.
- Donít use your outdoor hose to clean your driveway or the sides of your house when you can sweep the surfaces clean with a broom.
- Remember that you can use extra water from indoor use to irrigate your garden. This includes gray water from your clothes washing machine, which you can route from its hose into a storage tank to let it cool down first before transferring to your plants. Also, when you change your petís water bowl, you can pour the old water on your garden. You can also irrigate with soapy water you have saved from doing the dishes or scrubbing vegetables.
- Donít wash your car in the driveway with your outdoor hose. Who cares if the car is dusty when youíre living in the desert? If you must keep it looking clean on a semi-regular basis, go to a commercial car-wash once a month, or better still, once every three or six months.
- Again, if all this water conservation seems like too big a pain, read Frank Herbertís science-fiction masterpiece Dune. Imagine yourself as Paul Atreides, having to learn to live with the native Fremen in so harsh a desert environment that everyone has to wear a ďstillsuitĒ that recycles body fluids into drinking water.
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