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By Laura Matney

Tips to save water outside of the house

Modern society uses a lot of water. Most of us have been told to save water by turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth and when we are cleaning up after a meal. How can we take it even further and help avert a water crisis by conserving water outside of our home?

Saving water one plant at a time

When planning out the garden or landscaping at home, go native with plants. The use of regionally compatible plants can ensure they are using water more efficiently and are more drought resistant. It also helps to spread a layer of mulch around plants so they can retain water and save time. Set the lawnmower to a higher setting — taller grass provides shade and helps retain soil moisture.

Is it time to water? Don't be too sure. Use a trowel to dig down a little in the dirt. If the top two to three inches are dry, then it is time to water. It is still possible to conserve water, though, by making sure to only water as much as the soil can absorb. Watering too much can cause runoff or puddles. Another good rule of thumb is to water deeply rather than frequently. This way the water will reach the roots, helping the plant and the environment.

A rain barrel can be installed to capture water coming from gutters and downspouts. Each time it rains, the water is collected in barrels that are screened from bugs. A spout is on the side of the barrel and can be used to water the garden. Timing matters too when watering. Be sure to water before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. The temperature will be lower and less water will be wasted to evaporation.

Sprinkler systems should be checked frequently in addition to receiving regular maintenance. Make sure to check for leaks and properly functioning sprinkler heads. Additionally, adjust sprinklers to only water the lawn and plants rather than the driveway or sidewalk.

Additional ways to save water outside

Pools, not surprisingly, take a lot of water to fill and to maintain. Instead of installing a pool, consider joining a community pool. Not only will this save water, but it encourages time with larger groups of family and friends (and it is a great way to meet more people in the neighborhood). If the backyard already has a pool, don't fill it up all the way. Leave a few inches to make a big impact and to avoid water being splashed over the sides. A pool cover will prevent thousands of gallons of evaporation, requiring less filling.

Wash the family car with a hose that has a nozzle to control the flow of water or take the car to a commercial car wash that recycles water. The car is not the only thing that needs a good wash in the summer. If the family pet needs a bath, make sure to save the bath water to use on shrubs and trees — but do not use it to water anything the family will eat. Bath water is dirty water.

There are many ways to help conserve water inside and outside the home. The important thing is that each of us can make a difference. Pick one thing and get started. Educate family and encourage friends to help too. It's the right thing to do.

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