Outdoor Water Conservation in Athens

This week’s blog post is from WCO Intern Laura Keys.

Quick! Think of 3 ways you can conserve water at home!

… Are you thinking about shorter showers? Turning off the water when you brush your teeth? Running dishwashers and washing machines with full loads? Fixing leaky faucets? All of these are excellent practices that will help you reduce the amount of water you use at home. But did you think about anything on the outside of your house?

The actual sprinkler at fault wasn’t quite as cute as this Toys ‘R’ Us yard snake.

More than half of residential water use is estimated to go towards outdoor use — for watering plants, washing cars, power-washing houses, playing in sprinklers, and so on. And even more so in the summer when we’re all feeling motivated to be outside (but still want to stay cool).

I thought that surely people have moved past the whole “watering the street with their sprinklers” thing, but on a walk through 5 Points, I was reminded that this scenario still happens: in front of some new construction with brand-new bermuda grass, there was a lone sprinkler merrily watering the grass, sidewalk, and street during the heat of the day.

So clearly there are still problems with how water is used in Athens, but there are also a lot of people that do things right! Here are a few concrete things that people in Athens are doing that YOU too can do around your home to conserve water use outdoors.

First off, don’t let all that lovely rainwater that hits your roof go to waste… set up a rain barrel! Rain barrels collect rainwater and store it until you decide to use it. You can water plants with it, wash your car, wash the dog, anything you would normally use the hose to do. The Public Works building downtown has a rain barrel system in place that collects water from the roof and waters a lovely vegetable garden with it.

okra

While you’re harvesting water for your plants, consider how much water your plants will need. Athens isn’t in a state of drought at the moment, but we’re often on the cusp of it. In drought-prone areas, try out some plants that require less water, such as amaranth, okra, succulents, peppers, and many varieties of tomatoes.

yard landscaped with pine mulch (outdoorlivingbymrmulch.com)

In addition to your desired plants and grass, use mulch to keep moisture in the soil and to control undesired weeds. If you really want to save on the watering, skip the green lawn and cover your yard area entirely with wood chip or pine mulch.

Finally, be smart about watering and use smart irrigation practices. You don’t need a lot of fancy automatic moisture sensors to figure out when to water! Just use an old-school, manual approach: dig down about 2-3 inches, and shape a handful of soil into a ball. If it keeps its form, there’s enough moisture in the soil already. And when the time inevitably comes to water your plants, do what you can to prevent evaporation. Avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day, and water the plants on the ground near their roots rather than in the air around their leaves.

And above all, remember: people and plants need water, but your driveway doesn’t!

To read more about particular sites in Athens practicing water conservation, check out this older blog post: https://thinkatthesink.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/sandy-creek-nature-center/

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