By Christina Catanese
We had to break out the little inflatable pool this weekend – the multiple days of temperatures over 90 degrees just demanded it. The cool water from the hose was refreshing, but when it came time to empty the pool, I couldn’t believe how much water it held and how long it took to drain it. I captured some of it to water my droopy plants, but there was still more water than I could use.
During the summer, you might use four times as much water as you do during other months. Your water bill likely reflects the extra water you need for your lawn and garden, and to keep yourself cool! Your local waterways and systems are feeling the heat, too – the more water we use, the more has to be withdrawn and treated before it goes back to rivers and streams.
So what are some ways we can use less water in the summer? Part of it is using the water effectively.
While up to 90 percent of the water used outdoors is for irrigation, having a beautiful landscape doesn’t have to mean using a lot of water. Watering by hand is most efficient, but lots of us have automatically timed irrigation systems for convenience. It turns out that homes with automatically timed irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than those without. Your system can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak. Lots of water can be lost through evaporation if you water at the wrong time of the day, and leaky hoses, dripping faucets, and improper landscaping can keep your garden from looking its best. Here are some tips from WaterSense for watering wisely this summer.
Another way to use less water outside is to capture it yourself. By using a rain barrel, you can capture free rainwater to use when you need it most to water your lawn and garden (but not for drinking or your kiddie pool). Rain barrels can be purchased at your local hardware or garden supply store. Better yet, many local government programs offer them at reduced prices. Check out our short video and this longer video from GreenTreks for more on installing your own rain barrel.
You can even design your landscape to be water efficient. Some plants are thirstier than others, so choose plants that are defined as low water use or drought tolerant for your area. These plant species will be able to survive in your climate with minimal, if any, need for supplemental watering. See these simple tips for water-efficient landscaping for more ideas on lowering water use in your yard. Visit this link to explore lists of native plants available for by state, and this one to see some Mid Atlantic resources.
So tell us: how are you dropping your water use this summer?
About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.