Water, water, where are you?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that landscape irrigation accounts for almost one-third of all residential water use, with families in dry climates such as the Southwest using twice that of their counterparts. Irrigating our lawns and gardens consumes nearly 9 billion gallons/day, of which an astonishing 50% is wasted due to inefficiency:

ws_infographics_outdoorThe sheer magnitude of these figures, coupled with spiraling scarcity detailed in my Yesterday, today, tomorrow post, presents both a crisis and a breakthrough opportunity.


How the sweeping changes advocated by Diffenbaugh and Field might unfold is anybody’s guess. I do know though, from my past two years’ experiences and research, that water-wise landscaping can dramatically cut consumption posthaste, and help revitalize resources.

First up is to rein in the 50% squandered by inefficient processes and systems, such as:

  • Lack of tracking and management of consumption
  • Ineffective irrigation designs and leaky components
  • Insufficient maintenance to minimize evaporation and loss
  • Inattention to signs of waste and remediation
  • Laissez-faire rather than holistic sustainability practices

The other 50% outdoor water use is fair game too. While more capital-intensive than re-engineering irrigation, significant savings spring from changes such as these, listed in order of impact:

  • Turf removal
  • No-water treatments such as hardscape
  • Less thirsty and drought-tolerant plantings
  • Fewer plants and placement for mature sizes
  • Removal of ailing or unappealing plants

Given the size and waste of current landscaping consumption, the single most potent and lasting way to reduce residential water use is for each of us to take actions like these. Imagine, if enough of us step up, how many gallons we can save of the 9 billion daily, 3 trillion annually, used for our lawns and gardens. And how that can build protection for the future.

Water, water, where are you? Hidden in plain sight, just waiting to be rescued.