Ways We’re Cutting Our Water Use

When we started planning our house, I wanted to reduce our usage of electricity and water. We quickly realized that we could not afford a greywater system, but I wanted to do what I could to conserve water.

We installed a 550 gallon rainwater collection system. The plumber separated two of the exterior hose bibs so that I can run hoses from them and use the rainwater for outdoor irrigation. (The other two hook up to the City water system.) Having the hose bibs means that I can have the rain barrel in the back yard (out of sight) but still water the front yard without having to run hoses all the way around the house. We have a metal roof so we get quite a bit of run-off into the system (when it rains).

In our previous home we had a traditional grass yard with a sprinkler system. When I reviewed the water bills and the cost of maintaining the sprinklers, and fertilizing and cutting the grass, I knew that I wanted to do things differently. I was appalled by the amount of water being used to maintain a yard I didn't like. What's more I thought about the amount of energy being used to treat and transport that water. It made me sick to think that I was wasting so much energy. When I added in the pollution generated by the machines used to cut my lawn and the fertilizers being put on the lawn, I just had to find another type of yard.

So in this house I have left the back yard in a (mostly) natural state. There is a dry creek in the back of the lot and quite a few trees. I have cut down the weeds, added a bed of drought tolerant, shade loving plants and will strew some wildflower seed. Beyond that, the back yard will be left alone.

I am xeriscaping the front yard. I have divided the yard into two sections, an outer rim and an inner circle. In the outer rim I have planted mostly flowering drought tolerant, deer resistant native plants such as lantana, verbena, yarrow and butterfly weed. I have added some grasses (gulf coast muhly) for texture. This creates a nice border between the neighbors and the street. In the inner circle I am experimenting with ground cover. I have planted pony foot, blue-eyed grass, whitlow wort and salvia. I want to see what will work best. What I am hoping to achieve is a pleasing low growing ground cover that does not grow very high and, therefore, does not need to be mowed. We'll see. In addition I have planted a couple of smoke trees and a few ferns. Also close to the house I have a vegetable/herb bed. I am hoping to get a few tomatoes before the first frost!

We are also trying to conserve water in the house. We have low flow faucets, dual flush toilets and energy star appliances. We do not have a garden tub, choosing instead to install a large shower with a seat. I am still trying to find ways to conserve water inside. For example, I was rinsing out some cans so that they could be recycled and was disturbed by how much water it took to do this. I talked to my husband about it and he suggested that we run the cans through the dishwasher instead. I like the idea and will see how that impacts our dishwasher usage.

I would like to be able to use less water and will continue to look for ways to conserve. I would love to find a way to generate all of our water needs in the same way that we have solar for our electricity needs. Until then, I will do what I can to cut back on treated water usage.