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Landscaping Ideas that Help Save Water

Water Scarcity: A Severe Problem

Water covers the majority of the earth’s surface, but only one percent of it is available as drinking water. The rest of it is either saltwater in the ocean or frozen at the North and South Poles. With both temperatures and population numbers rising, we are consuming our freshwater supplies quicker than we can replenish them -- a problem dubbed the World’s Water Crisis.

Water shortages are a real threat. In fact, Cape Town -- the second-largest city in South Africa -- recently implemented water rationing as a way to stall “Day Zero,” the point at which at least a million homes in the city will be without running water. Water scarcity in an area can lead to dire consequences including rising costs, reduced food supplies, health hazards and even armed conflict. Projections estimate that the value of water will eventually surpass that of oil.

Landscaping and Water Waste

In the 20th century, families moved out of cities and set up homes on sprawling lots in the suburbs. Landscaping one’s yard became a homeowner’s pride. Modeled after the vast acres of turf found on English landscape gardens, homeowners planted their lawns with thirsty grasses that required constant watering and upkeep to maintain their lush appearance.

The enduring popularity of lawns as a status symbol poses a serious risk to our water supply. An estimated 30 to 60 percent of urban freshwater is used for home lawns and gardens -- a shocking amount considering the novelty of the home feature. Furthermore, the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer we use on the lawns gets washed into what freshwater supplies we have left, putting the entire community’s health at risk.

To combat this problem, many homeowners are saying sayonara to their traditional lawns in favor of eco-friendly options that need less maintenance and -- more importantly -- less water.

Water Preserving Landscaping Ideas

Xeriscaping is a type of landscape design for homes located in drought-prone areas like California, Arizona and Nevada. The plants used in xeriscaping need a lot less water. Many of these drought tolerant plants satisfy their needs by absorbing the morning dew through their leaves.

  • Water your plants in the evening as the sun goes down. Cooling temperatures means less water waste through evaporation.

  • Use native plants in your landscape design to help maintain life in your yard. Native plants are literally bred to survive in your climate. Plus, they encourage biodiversity and attract pollinators including local birds and bees.

  • Stop pollutants from seeping into your city’s water supply by discontinuing the use of hazardous fertilizers and poisonous weed abatement products.

  • Planting a garden that benefits from the rain for deep watering; this can help put your roof’s downspouts and French drains to work for your garden, directing the run-off to a catch basin or your parking strip. Not only do they function well and prevent water damage from unnecessary moisture accumulating around your foundation, the water can be useful as surface drainage to help provide water to your plants and trees! So break out the garden gloves and trowel and start planting!

  • Save “grey water” like leftover water you use indoors to use in your garden. Plants don’t mind the dirt and grime you left in there -- they are just happy for the drink.

  • Mulching flowerbeds, provided a proper berm is installed around the base of the plants, helps soil retain water for longer by preventing evaporation. Decorative rock works even better, because rock doesn’t absorb water the way bark does.

  • Consider building an outdoor living area that helps take up space in your yard where you’d otherwise lay down sod. Many people are beginning to install artificial turf as well.

In Conclusion

Water scarcity is a major problem in the world that can lead to consequences including rising costs, reduced food supplies, health hazards and even armed conflict. We waste so much water on outdated lawns that contribute little more than pollutants in our sewers. Minimize your lawn and replace it with eco-friendly landscaping to reduce your impact and ensure a future where we all have enough of this vital resource.

This article was contributed by Clara Beaumont, a guest writer for Jefferson Landscape and Design who can be reached by email at for additional questions; likewise, if you are looking to discover more information regarding the topics she covers, her website is

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