By Vicki Duong

Reports this summer show that many parts of the country are experiencing the worst drought conditions in decades, which puts a renewed spotlight on the preciousness of water and the need for homeowners to conserve it when possible.

Almost one-third of the water your family uses – about 100 gallons a day – ends up on your yard and garden, according to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency. Nationwide, more than 7 billion gallons a day go to landscape irrigation, with about half that water wasted because it only soaks sidewalks or evaporates before reaching the soil. A few realistic changes can save water and lower your bills. A clever acronym for remembering these steps is DIRTS – drip irrigation, recapture, timers and sensors. HouseLogic, a division of the National Association of Realtors, expands on these practices a bit further:


These systems put water only where you want it. Unlike a soaker hose, which emits water all along its length, a drip system delivers water directly to a plant’s roots, which cuts down on waste and also reduces weeds. A drip system is basically a long, thin plastic tube that rests on the ground or is buried just below the surface and attached to your outside faucet with a valve. Small emitters release water at rates of one-half to four gallons an hour, although adjustments can be made as needed. Going from sprinklers to drip irrigation can cut lawn water use by up to 50 percent, which could result in savings of up to $100 on your annual water bill.

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Rainwater is great for plants, and you sure can’t beat the price. One inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof provides 600 gallons of runoff. Depending on local rainfall, that could be enough to water your plants all summer. All you need to harvest rainwater is a plastic or wooden drum with a spigot near the bottom where you can attach a hose. Many hardware stores and home improvement centers should have varying types for you to choose from. Put the barrel underneath a downspout to catch rainwater coming off the roof. You’ll need to attach a flexible elbow to the downspout so it feeds into the barrel. To keep debris out and pests away, cover your barrel with a fine mesh screen or lid.


Whatever watering system you use, putting a timer on it will make your watering more efficient and allow you set it to a particular schedule if your city has restrictions because of dry conditions. To take conservation a step further, adding a sensor can measure either actual rainfall or the moisture in the soil and subtract that amount from the next watering cycle. A study by the University of Florida showed that soil moisture monitors can cut water use by more than 50 percent. And depending on what part of the country you live in, some water agencies give rebates to customers who install and use such systems.

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Got Drought? 4 Ways to Conserve Water by