Tuesday, September 29, 2015

(How to) Save water/lower your water bill

Inside Your Home

1. Check for Leaks

This is the most obvious thing you can do, but there may be some leaks you’re missing. Check the level on your water meter and then again after two hours without water use. The level should be the same, and if it isn’t, you have a leak!

2. Rinse Your Razor in the Sink

Just like you shouldn’t leave the tap on while brushing your teeth, turn it off while shaving, too. Instead, fill the sink with a few inches of warm water to rinse your razor.

3. Switch Your Appliances

If you’re on the market for new appliances, look for energy star appliances or water saving ones. Not only do they reduce the amount of water you use by 35-50% per use, but they also save on energy.

4. Don’t Pre-Wash Dishes

Most dishwasher don’t require a pre-rinse, and that saves 20 gallons of water right there! Instead scrape plates off into the trash or start a compost you can use in the garden. This will also save you from using the garbage disposal which, by design, requires a lot of water to use. If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill one side of the sink or a bucket with warm soapy water to wash and the other side or the sink with clear water to rinse. This, too, will cut down your water consumption.

5. Insulate Hot Water Pipes

Believe it or not, this directly cuts down on water use and can be done inexpensively with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. It will keep hot water hot so you spend less time waiting for it and less water getting to it.

6. Install Water-Saving Appliances

Replacing your faucets and shower heads with low-flow faucet aerators and water-saving shower heads is easier than it sounds. You can easily install them yourself and they’re inexpensive. They make a huge difference in your water use without sacrificing water pressure.

Outside Your Home

1. Use Native Plants

If you’re re-landscaping or just looking for what to plant this year, consider using plants native to your area or drought-resistant plants. Not only will they be more accustomed to your climate and area’s diseases, but they’ll also use less water. Plant on slopes to reduce erosion and runoff, and group plants by watering needs to maximize efficiency.

2. Mulch

Place mulch around plants and trees. The organic matter helps to retain moisture and prevent evaporation so you don’t have to water as frequently.

3. Check Your Sprinklers

Make sure that your sprinklers are aimed at your lawn and plants instead of paved areas. Also, check that they’re all functioning properly and not just flooding one portion of your yard. Avoid watering when the suns up or when it’s windy to reduce evaporation and water loss.

4. Only Water When You Need To

Your lawn doesn’t need as much water as you think. To test if it’s thirsty, step on or press down on the grass. If it springs back up, you’re good. If it remains flat, go ahead and water it. On average, your lawn only needs one inch of water per week. Keep blades at three inches, too. This will help your lawn naturally retain more water.

5. Lawn Alternatives

If you’re fed up with your lawn, think about replacing it with our low-maintenance lawn alternatives or low-water turf. If that’s not your style, but you do want to save water, consider letting your lawn go dormant for the summer. Just water it once a month and once cooler weather rolls in, water regularly. It will spring right back up.

6. Water By Hand

If you’re committed to a green lawn but not the price, water by hand. Manually watering your lawn and plants lets you adjust how much water goes where and prevents over-watering. Plus, it will save you 33% of the water you’d normally use!

7. Drip Irrigation

Not only does drip irrigation save water, but it’s also the best way to water planters, shrub beds, gardens and trees. It applies water directly to the root where it’s needed and reduces use and evaporation.

8. Check Your Hoses

First, when you use a hose, make sure it has a nozzle that will shut off when you’re not using it. Secondly, turn it off when you’re washing your car—use soap and water in a bucket to wash instead. Lastly, check for leaks! We keep hoses rolled up most of the time and rubber can crack.

Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives

1. Allergy-free Flora

If you keep your allergy pills next to the lawn mower, you may want to consider replacing your lawn with sneeze-less plants. Pollen free plants such as purple sage, spurge, day lilies, bamboo and mint all look beautiful and need minimal weeding and watering.

2. Ground Covers

There are a variety of creeping perennials and clover that almost look like a lawn, but requires much less care and water. Consider creeping thyme sprinkled in with a walkable gravel—the colorful blooms are delightful and the thyme releases a fragrance when walked on.

3. Turf Grass

Don’t recoil just because we said grass. If you can’t kick the green, replace your time-sucking lawn with turf grass. It needs a quarter of the water, rarely needs mowing and doesn’t need any fertilizer or pesticides. It’s an environmentalist’s kind of lawn.

4. Extend Your Patio

Either extend your patio or install a patio instead of a lawn. Make your backyard a retreat with a fireplace or water feature, covered patio or anything you can dream up. The concrete or wood patio definitely doesn’t need watering and can be brightened up with potted, drought-tolerant plants or creeping vines.

5. Go Native

Plant your lawn with the flora that’s indigenous to your area. It’s already adapted to the climate so it hardly needs any attention at all.

6. Gravel

Foot-friendly gravel like pea gravel is virtually maintenance-free. Green it up with potted plants, low shrubs along the border or succulents.

7. Permeable Paving

If you’re looking for a more natural look than poured concrete walkways, look into permeable pavements. They look like they’ve always been there and also allow water to trickle back into the soil.

8. Synthetic Grass

Slightly on the more expensive side, synthetic grass has all the pros of a lawn without any of the bother. The best part? You can use it to put in a putting green.

9. Simply Succulent

Create a tapestry of succulents in colorful shapes and sizes. You’d be surprised how beautiful these drought-resistant plants can be and won’t look anything like a bleak desert landscape. Since they were born and raised on the lonely range, they hardly need any attention at all.

No More Mowing: 10 Grass-Free Alternatives to a Traditional Lawn

Replace your lawn with hardscape

Some materials to consider are brick without mortar, flagstone, patio blocks and decomposed granite.

Brick without mortar makes an attractive surface that is easy to walk on or operate anything from a tricycle to a wheelchair. Border the brick walk with treated wood 2-by-4s for straight stretches and flexible steel or cedar pieces for curves. You want the brick to be tight together so the width should be divisible by the width of the brick surface. A good width is 36 inches if the brick is 3 inches on the side to form your surface.

Patio blocks can be used the same way as bricks. The blocks are easier to lay than bricks, but the finished surface isn't as attractive.

If you use flagstone or slate materials for the path or patio, the surface will not be as level as the brick or patio blocks, and there necessarily will be space between the rocks. The overall look also will be less formal.

Decomposed granite should be applied to a caliche base about 2 inches deep and well compacted.

Patio surfaces can be higher than the surrounding beds and or lawn, but for ease of mowing, the paths or sidewalks seem to work best if they are level with the lawn. To accomplish that, the route of the path will have to be dug out to accommodate the 3 inches of sand or 2 inches of caliche plus the depth of the surface material.

Use a garden hose and spray paint to mark the area to be dug out, including the 2-by-4 border.

Sand provides a stable base and is easy to level. Decomposed granite does better on a base of 2 inches of caliche fill.

The brick, patio block and flagstone do not need to be perfectly level, but you can use a level to check the path as you proceed or even use a straight piece of 2-by-4 that, when laid on your border, will show you if the path is relatively level. The brick and other material should just touch the bridging 2-by-4.

Drainage off the path should not be a problem if it is level or slightly higher than the surrounding beds or lawn. You can allow for a small slope (1 inch or less) across the path.

If you decide to eliminate a larger portion of the lawn in favor of a low-water-use landscape, a good strategy would be to kill the grass with glyphosplate. Put in the paths and patio and then apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of chopped shredded or other attractive but inexpensive mulch to cover the killed lawn. Planting of perennials, shrubs and more shade trees can be done as weather and your budget allow.

How to save even more water / money

Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost instead and save gallons every time.

Plant during the spring or fall when the watering requirements are lower.

Minimize evaporation by watering during the early morning hours, when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.

Use a layer of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.

Collect the water you use for rinsing produce and reuse it to water houseplants.

When you clean your fish tank, use the water you've drained on your plants. The water is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, providing you with a free and effective fertilizer.

Use porous materials for walkways and patios to keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.

Direct downspouts and other runoff towards shrubs and trees, or collect and use for your garden.

Choose a water-efficient drip irrigation system for trees, shrubs and flowers. Watering at the roots is very effective, be careful not to over water.

Group plants with the same watering needs together to get the most out of your watering time.

Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.

While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.

Avoid installing ornamental water features and fountains that spray water into the air. Trickling or cascading fountains lose less water to evaporation.

Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and allow leaf litter to accumulate on top of the soil. This keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.

Start a compost pile. Using compost when you plant adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.

Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.

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