Efficient Water Use Outside the Home
Water Friendly Gardening
Many Tampa Bay area residents have already experienced the benefits of water-wise gardening. Check out our Water-Wise Awards program to see some of their attractive and water-efficient yards. Restricting the use of turf to play and pet areas and filling in with drought-tolerant plants and bushes are the first steps to a water-thrifty yard. Some other water-friendly tips are:
- Select drought-tolerant plants and group plants with similar light and water needs together.
- Keep three inches of mulch on plant beds to reduce water.
- Design or retrofit your irrigation system to accommodate less thirsty plants.
- Mow lawns high, leaving three to four inches on the blade. This way the roots grow deeper and are less affected by drought.
- Direct gutters and downspouts to drain into the lawn and plant beds to prevent rain water from running into the street where it can carry pollutants into the storm water system.
- Capture rain water in a barrel or cistern.
Using the right irrigation techniques and technologies will go a long way toward saving water at home. The key is selecting the best sprinkler head for the job of effective watering which helps prevent watering the driveway or street.
Rotors apply water over a large area so they are good for lawns, while rotary spray heads are better for small areas of grass and some landscape beds. Micro-irrigation, also known as “drip” or “low-volume” irrigation, is ideal for shrubs, flowers and potted plants. Because water goes directly to the root of the plant, there is less water loss from evaporation, wind and runoff, and fewer pests. For information on efficient micro-irrigation systems, see “A Guide to Micro-Irrigation for West Central Florida Landscapes”.
You will also want to adjust the timer for various zones to apply ½ to ¾ inch water per application. Generally, rotor zones should be set to 45 minutes an hour and spray heads to 15 to 25 minutes per application. These may be adjusted to ensure you apply the depth of water identified.
Your local home improvement stores carry different types of replacement sprinkler heads. Remember to replace broken heads with similar make and models of heads and spray patterns.
When installing or updating irrigation systems choose a contractor that understands water efficiency and uniform application of water per irrigation zone. We recommend visiting the University of Florida IFAS Extension website for guidance, and the Environmental Protection Agency web site maintains a list of certified irrigation contractors.
During Florida’s rainy seasons, homeowners can capture rain from gutters and store it in barrels or cisterns for future watering. In addition to saving potable water, reusing rain water reduces runoff, which can carry pollution into your local water system.
You will find classes and workshops for reusing rainwater on the local web sites of the County Extension Services of the University of Florida:
Links to information on rain barrels and cisterns: