With the summer months upon us, Californians tend to focus on the inevitable rise in their cooling bills in order to stay comfortable indoors. However, many also tend to overlook a different effect of our state’s heat waves: outdoor watering. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, Californians use 109 gallons of water per person per day between June and September compared to approximately 60-80 gallons on average for every other month; this equates to about half of your annual water bill being attributed to just one-third of the year. In order to conserve our most precious resource in a time where it’s most needed, below are some tips for reducing your outdoor water use, whether you’re building a new development or maintaining/renovating your existing lot.
1. Reduce turf where possible
Turf, sod, and other artificial groundcover tends to require a significantly larger portion of water to maintain since its properties are not as naturally absorbent as real soil. Additionally, new turf can cost anywhere between $5 to $20 per square foot compared to a seeded lawn which will only cost upwards of 18 cents per square foot. Although it may be aesthetically pleasing and there may be less maintenance, avoiding the use of turf wherever you can will certainly result in a lowered water bill and significant savings on installation costs. The reduction of turf also contributes towards third party green building rating systems such as LEED or GPR.
2. Invest in an automatic irrigation controller
The California Green Building Code (CALGreen) requires the use of these types of landscape controllers when installing any new outdoor planting which requires dedicated year-round water to stay alive. These “smart” controllers are designed with humidity sensors, advanced timers, and other features which prevent overwatering through the irrigation system. For existing developments or homes, replacing an outdated controller with a newer one that possesses these types of features can potentially save hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water per year.
3. Shade your lawns and plants
Although many outdoor plants require direct sunlight to thrive, excessive heat can cause grass, shrubs, and other plants to dry up faster and thus require more water to stay healthy and vibrant. Using shading devices such as cantilevers, canopies, and other such methods can help reduce the amount of direct heat that causes the moisture stored in plants and soil to evaporate faster.
4. Consider hardscape alternatives
One method of lowering outdoor water use is to reduce the amount of new plants installed per square foot. This may seem counterintuitive to a “green” landscape design, but a fair compromise can be found through the use of vegetated pavers and other similar designs which provide a clean look to your walkways, patios, etc. while maintaining a natural aesthetic and consequently requiring less water to maintain its appearance.
Sustainable methods for outdoor water use reduction such as the ones listed above serve a larger purpose of keeping California habitable for years to come. By mitigating the strain on local municipalities and utility companies, we can keep our lands green and beautiful while saving water, time, and money in the process. For more information on how to keep your existing homes and new projects looking green without breaking the budget, contact VCA Green below.
Contributing Writer: Burke Boydell, Project Manager
Moe Fakih, Principal
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