Outdoor water use in Austin is estimated to account for fully 27% of all single-family residential use. Here are some water saving tips to help you conserve outdoor water to save money.
- Confirm the Austin watering schedule for your address.
- Have a professional irrigator do a comprehensive inspection for leaks, and ensure the system is running efficiently. The homeowner should do a monthly inspection to flag any problems for repairs.
- Use a smart controller, and program it for site conditions to avoid overwatering. An important point to remember about controllers is that they are only as smart as the information that’s input.
- Install water-conserving add-ons such as rain and soil sensors.
- Start with lower run times and increase the time if areas of the yard appear stressed.
- Reduce evaporation and waste by watering in the early morning hours when wind speed and temperature are at their lowest.
- Water less often in the spring and fall.
- Run your system periodically over the winter to prevent problems in the spring.
- Adjust sprinkler heads so that they are not watering the sidewalk, pavement, or side of your house. Also realign heads that are spraying too high into the air or striking tall shrubs.
- Check sprinklers after mowing to ensure they haven’t been knocked out of alignment or broken.
- For efficient irrigation of bedded plants, shrubs, and trees, use drip irrigation to apply water directly to the roots.
Lawn and Plants
- Choose drought-tolerant plants for your landscape, and group plants together with similar water needs. For lawns, select a blend that matches the site conditions and climate.
- For steep slopes, isolated strips, and other hard-to-water sections, plant shrubs and groundcovers instead of grass.
- Avoid overseeding your lawn with winter grass that needs watering. Warm season grasses, such as Bermuda and St. Augustine, go dormant during the winter and need less irrigation.
- Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. Taller grass holds moisture better by shading the soil and encourages the growth of deeper root systems.
- Don’t over-water your plants. Before watering, check the soil moisture depth with a trowel, shovel, or soil probe, and water only if the top two or three inches of soil are dry.
- Use a timer on hose-end sprinklers to prevent over-watering.
- Shady areas should be watered less than sunny areas. The cooler temperature lowers evaporation, so the plants need less water.
- Use unglazed clay pots (ollas) to irrigate bedded plants. After sealing the drainage holes, bury the pots so that approximately one inch remains above ground. Fill the pots with water, then cover. Water will seep slowly through the porous clay, directly irrigating the plant roots. When the water is absorbed, refill the pots, usually once or twice a week.
- Add 2 to 4 inches of bark mulch or compost around plants and trees to help prevent weed growth and to maintain soil moisture. Press the mulch down around each plant’s drip line to form a tiny depression to minimize water runoff.
- The best time to plant is when temperatures are cooler. The plants require less water, and it’s less stressful for them.
- Weed your garden beds. Less plant competition cuts down on water consumption.
- Allow leaf litter to accumulate on the soil, and don’t trim lower branches on trees and shrubs to keep the soil cooler and reduce evaporation.
- To promote a drought-tolerant and healthy landscape, use a minimum amount of organic or slow release fertilizer.
- Top dress turf areas with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost to promote soil health. Healthy soil can take in and hold more water.
- Aerate your lawn at least once a year by punching holes about six inches apart. This allows the water to penetrate to the roots, rather than run off the surface.
- Bathe pets outdoors in an area where the lawn needs water. When refilling water bowls, or cleaning out fish tanks, use the discarded water on your plants.
- Install a rain barrel or rainwater harvesting system to collect water from your gutters to use on your landscape.
- Grow Green provides free landscape design templates, a list of drought-tolerant plants native or adapted to the area, and other gardening information for help in developing sustainable landscaping practices.
Although South Austin Irrigation does not provide services related to pools or other non-irrigation-related uses of water outdoors, we are happy to offer some helpful information about other steps you can take to conserve water.
Vehicles and Surfaces
- Use a car wash that recycles water. This can save hundreds of gallons of water compared to washing your car at home.
- If you do wash your car at home during the conservation stage, consider parking on the grass, and using a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
- Sweep driveways and sidewalks with a broom rather than a hose.
- Check out waterless cleaning products to wash your vehicle.
- Don’t use water toys that need a constant water flow.
- To reduce water loss, avoid diving, splashing, and water fights.
- Check regularly for cracks and leaks. Mark the water level at the skimmer with a grease pencil and check the level 24 hours later. You may have a leak if the pool has lost more than 1/4 inch of water.
- Cover swimming pools when not in use to reduce evaporation, keep out debris, and reduce the need for chemicals.
- Surround the pool with fences or shrubs to help decrease water loss from wind evaporation.
- For heated pools, lower the water temperature a couple of degrees to reduce water loss from evaporation.
- Only refill the pool when the water quality deteriorates. Maintaining proper chemical levels and ensuring proper circulation will help you avoid the need to drain it as often.
- You can reduce the amount of water lost due to splashing by filling the pool a few inches lower than usual.
- Use a hose timer to avoid overfilling when topping off.
- Check and maintain auto fillers.
- Use a pool vacuum that recycles water when cleaning the pool.
- Only backwash pool filters when needed or try manually cleaning the filter instead.
The City of Austin offers “a variety of rebates, grants and free landscaping items” to residents to encourage and support water conservation measures.
One of the most effective water conservation measures you can take is to have your irrigation system repaired and maintained to keep it at peak operating efficiency. South Austin Irrigation can provide custom scheduling, controller replacement and upgrades, system upgrades, leak detection and repairs and many other services to help you save money by saving water. Call us at (512) 534-7449 or fill out our online service request form.