Water Saving Strategies and Experiences

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts

By Dan Songster, 2015 July

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on topics related to gardening with natives. Our question for this newsletter is: What strategies are you currently using to save water in this drought (gray water, special irrigation heads, smart controller, etc.) and how are those efforts working for you?

Nancy Harris – “We installed a hot water recirculating pump years ago. It can be set on a timer for the hours you need hot water. We take Navy showers and not every day. Washing clothes every two weeks with new machines. Our whole yard is planted in drought tolerant plants. Unfortunately we have a pool and vegetable garden, which negates the saving of a lot of water. If we ever get some rain we can install a rain barrel for the vegetable garden.”

Joe Gautsch – “Keep water away from drains and the street. Water collection has become 2nd nature for me now. I harvest rainwater on three corners of my house and use it to water outdoors. I keep a 5 gallon pail in the shower to catch water until it warms up and use it as toilet flush. I use the dishpan to capture reusable water in the kitchen. I also capture the water from my washing machine and use it on my natives, succulents and trees out back. I am considering a cistern outside of the back bathroom to catch wastewater from the shower and vanity but just in the dream phase now.”

Orchid Black – ”I use swales and infiltration plants since most of my clients’ homes sit over an aquifer and that provides groundwater recharge (as well as healthier plants). So I concentrate on rainwater catchment and sometimes simple laundry grey-water to fruit trees with clients. Swales, especially, allow plants to subsist longer on clean rainwater.”

Curtis Craft – ”I have been using two 55 gallon barrels to capture rainwater as well as three 30 gallon trash cans that I place around various parts of the roof line. This system has worked great for me since using this captured water has allowed me to ONLY use this to water the yard since the beginning of the year. The yard has looked good with lots of flowers and shrubs blooming each month.”

Alan Lindsay – ”I’m replacing my organic mulch with inorganic on the premise that water is absorbed by the organic mulch and evaporates, never reaching the soil. Also, I’m back to using Hunter’s MP Rotator sprinkler nozzles.“

Frances Collato – ”The ice maker on my refrigerator makes ice cubes much faster than I use them. Instead of allowing the ice cubes to become stale sitting in the freezer, I harvest them and throw them around the plants and in planters that need watering. I’ve also propagated many succulents that don’t require frequent watering.”

Thea Gavin – ”To rinse the (many-and-tasty) vegetables grown in our backyard vegetable garden, we use an outdoor sink that drains into a five-gallon bucket, which we then empty back on the plants. Indoors, we capture all not yet-warm shower water in buckets for more veggie watering. Our second-story soaking tub has a simple through the-wall hose/siphon setup to take that soapless water to our citrus trees.”

Vic Leipzig – ”Louann is the gardener in my family, but I’ll give you a quick answer: hand watering. That’s our water-saving strategy. We have no automated watering system. All our vegetable beds, fruit trees, and decorative landscaping are watered by hand. We have a standard single family yard (much of it in vegetable beds) and our usage is about 70 gallons per person per day, much lower than average consumption. Also, Lou has numerous rain barrels under our eaves.

Melanie Schlotterbeck – “In showers we collect water in a bucket under the faucet until the water gets hot (water the plants with this) and then water on to get wet — off to lather up — on to wash off. We hand wash dishes in a tub in the sink then water the plants with that water and each morn as we wait for our water to heat up we fill all Nalgene bottles and our water filter/pitcher.

Laura Camp – ”I’m not changing anything. We are using about 10% of our water allocation. Our native garden uses a minimal amount of supplemental water maybe 3 or 4 waterings per year. We had a spike in our water usage last year when we had a pipe leak in the front yard!”

Ron Vanderhoff – “Fortunately, I live within a water district that uses calculated “water budgets”, based upon property size, house size, number of occupants and real-time evapotranspiration data (water needs). Because of my mostly native garden, weather-sensitive irrigation controllers and high-efficiency sprinkler heads, we are well below our budgeted allocation. I feel sorry for the folks that have had a native, low-water garden for several years and now need to reduce their water use another 25%, while their neighbor with tropicals and a big lawn also have to reduce the same 25%. Doesn’t seem fair.”

Christiane  Shannon – “In my garden, a few years ago, many of the old fashion overhead fan type sprinklers were already replaced by a more efficient type (MP ROTATOR by Hunter) and selective hand watering with the hose or water-can has become the norm. The unusual sandy/gravely/rocky type of substrate consumes a high amount of water and has long ago forced me to think conservation. However, since I am still expecting to lose some of my native plants, I focus on trying to save the larger foundation plants. I also collect the available rain water in large barrels to be used for my indoor plants.”

Leon Baginski – ”Already have natives, and have been a low-water user for years. I wonder if the water company’s request for 50% reduction in home use or pay penalties will apply to those who already are fully native and use gray water? All rinse water for my fruits and veggies is collected in a bucket in the sink and used to water my natives that appreciate more water such as my chain fern, black willow and seep and scarlet monkey flowers. Otherwise, unless I stop showering altogether not sure where else to cut water use.”


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