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Xeriscaping and Water Conservation for Utah Summers

The Importance of Water Conservation

Water is a renewable resource because of the water cycle, but just because it’s renewable, that doesn’t mean shortages aren’t possible. In fact, in many places in the United States, water shortages are common. Utah is consistently hit with droughts in the summer. Water conservation becomes very important when droughts is a regular occurrence. Now, residents are looking for ways to increase water conservation not just for the good of everybody, but to save money on their own water bills. One option that might be worth considering is the practice known as xeriscaping.

What Is Xeriscaping

xeriscaping for water conservation in Texas
An example of Xeriscaping in Texas, Photo by Michael Barera

CV Lawn King, a landscaping company in Cache Valley, has been helping people find landscaping solutions to minimize water use. They mention Xeriscaping as one possibility.

But what is xeriscaping? Simply put, xeriscaping is the practice of using native plants and improved soil conditions to minimize the amount of water use and yard maintenance a landscape requires to survive. The practice constructs a landscape to survive on what the local environment naturally provides. There are many benefits to the practice, with water conservation and saving money being the most notable ones, but how does one set up a xeriscaped yard? Let’s take a look at the process.

1. Planning

Planning is essential to any major project you do around your home or business and xeriscaping is no different. You have to do some initial research into figuring out what native plants are available, which ones look the best, and how to best use them in the space you have. You’ll want to talk to a landscape architect first in order to make sure you make the best decisions in your planning. With all your research complete, you can set up a plan for how to redesign your yard.

2. Soil Improvement

Soil analysis is the first step to setting up a xeriscaped yard. The soil plays a major factor in how well plants grow and how well your lawn conserves water. The right soil will not only have exactly the nutrients your plants need, it will also be able to hold the water it gets, reducing the amount of irrigation you need to keep your lawn healthy. Once you figure out the state of your soil, you can improve on it to make it fit the design you’re going for.

soil moisture sensor helps with water conservation
This soil moisture sensor can help with water conservation

3. Efficient Irrigation

While the aim is to reduce the amount of irrigation and maintenance your yard needs, that amount can never be zero. You will always need some amount of irrigation in case there are long stretches without rain. To make it work, you want efficient irrigation. Fortunately, there are many options.

Monitoring equipment can read the moisture levels in the soil and control when your irrigation equipment goes off. Depending on the plants you use and the layout of the yard, drip irrigation can get the same result as sprinklers while using 40% less water. There are also many options for automation to make sure you don’t forget, or use more water than is necessary. Gathering rainwater can also be incorporated into the system to further conserve water.

4. Strategic Plant Grouping

Even in normal lawns, how you group your plants is a major factor in not wasting water. Different plants have different water needs. While some might get along with next to no water at all from you, others will need more. Grouping plants of similar water requirements together is critical to reducing water use. If you keep plants that require very little water together, you will need to water that area less. Regular watering uses much less water if you only have to do it in small patches around your yard.

5. Mulch

As a part of improving the soil, xeriscaping incorporates mulch. Mulch is great for protecting a plant’s roots during the heat of summer. With normal soil, a lot of water gets lost to evaporation when the sun comes out. Mulch holds much more water than regular soil, so it not only reduces how much water you need, it also keeps the ground cooler. Your plants will grow healthier with it. Exactly how much mulch you need will depend on the plants you use and the area you are in, so make sure you consult with a landscaping expert to find out what your needs are.

6. Native Plant Selection

This is the central tenant of xeriscaping. Native plants adapted to survive in the region where you live. They thrive on the natural rainfall, temperatures, and seasonal conditions of the area. That means they won’t need much watering unless there’s an extended period of below average rainfall. It also means you won’t have to do as much work to keep them healthy. It not only helps water conservation, but it reduces the maintenance requirements.

7. Maintenance Plans

As I said earlier, the aim is to reduce water use and maintenance, but some maintenance will be needed. Any landscape will be dynamic. Weeds pop up, plants can grow wild, or oversized (and more thirsty), and there can be periods where the weather is usually wet or dry. With xeriscaping, the amount of work you need to keep things in place is pretty minimal, but you still need some pruning, mulching, aeration, and irrigation management.  If you follow the principles of xeriscaping properly, however, you’ll find all of these needs significantly lessened.

Xeriscaping For Water Conservation

Xeriscaping is one of the most efficient water conservation methods to date. Each of the individual practices of xeriscaping are good for water conservation, but their combined effect is amazing. The first major studies done in Turkey, the first country to study the effects of its broad application, showed that cities implementing it reduced their water consumption by as much as 60%. That saved the country as much as $2 million per city on a yearly basis.

The savings on water bills and maintenance costs alone quickly make up the initial investment of getting a xeriscaped yard designed and built. As long periods of drought become more common, xeriscaping may be the key to stretching our water resources to meet our needs. If you’re looking to find a way to lower water bills and maintenance costs to save money, this may be an option worth considering.