It’s official, Indiana: we’re in a pretty bad drought right now! The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has concluded that in June, we received a state average of less than one-third our usual rainfall – and that more than two-thirds of the state is currently in either a “severe” or “extreme” drought.
In response to the lack of rainfall, Indianapolis has banned watering lawns as of Friday. Now is the time to conserve water and make sure our resources don’t get depleted…but how do you get started? Here are some easy tips that will help you conserve water, in the short AND long-term, and ensure that Indiana’s water resources aren’t wasted!*
Check your Taps and Appliances!
The easiest way to save water is to turn off the taps and make sure they don’t leak. Fixing a leak can save 300 gallons a month or more. Listen for dripping faucets and running toilets, and monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks.
Water Conservation in the Bathroom: Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month. When you are washing your hands, don’t let the water run while you lather.
Does your toilet leak? Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Fixing it can save up to 1,000 gallons a month. If your toilet was installed before 1992, reduce the amount of water used for each flush by inserting a displacement device in the tank.
How to get the most out of your shower: If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model…they’re inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month.
Shorten your shower by a minute or two or turn off the water while lathering hair and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month. Turning off the water while you shave can save up to 300 gallons a month. To reuse clean water that would otherwise go down the drain, keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up or runs. This water can go to houseplants.
Water Conservation in the Kitchen: Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. Defrost food in the refrigerator rather than under a running tap…it will be better for water efficiency and is also safer for your food!
Fill a basin rather than running the tap. When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water. Veggie rinse water can also go to watering house plants.
Use Water Efficiently: Make sure you’re not running half a load, that’s wasting water! Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month. Composting vegetable food waste rather than running the garbage disposer can save gallons every time.
Some refrigerators, air conditioners and ice-makers are cooled with wasted flows of water. Consider upgrading with air-cooled appliances for significant water savings. Look for appliances that offer cycle and load size adjustments; they’re more water and energy efficient. The EPA WaterSense Label appliances are certified to save 20% or more without sacrificing performance.
Drought-Proof your Backyard!
The first step in a drought-proof yard is to landscape appropriately. Use native shrubs and plants instead of turf grass, and spread a layer of organic mulch to prevent evaporation. Look into rain gardens to ensure water isn’t leaving your lawn, and install rain barrels to use water more efficiently and avoid waste when watering.
Planning a Drought-Proof Yard: Walkways and patios add value to your property, and won’t ever need to be watered! Ensure that such areas drain properly, and drain to an area full of plants that need extra water. Run water from the roof into these areas as well, or install rain barrels to avoid drainage issues and wasted waterings.
Try to always plant in the fall. Conditions are usually cooler, and there is more rainfall so watering won’t be as much of an issue. Use native plants that are drought resistant whenever possible; if using plants with higher water needs, group them together to avoid over-watering some plants and under-watering others.
Watering without Wasting Water: Aerate your lawn at least once a year so water can reach the roots. Water your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance. If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption. Check the root zone of your lawn or garden for moisture before watering using a spade or trowel. If it’s still moist two inches under the soil surface, you still have enough water.
To ensure that your lawn is holding all the water it can, check the settings on the lawnmower. A taller lawn shades roots and holds soil moisture better than if it is closely clipped. Consider letting your lawn go “dormant” in the summer – dormant grass only needs to be watered every three weeks or less if it rains.
When you do need to water your lawn, check the weather forecast first. Watering before rain events will waste water, and watering when it is windy (especially with a sprinkler) will just throw water to the wind – a good portion of the water you pay for will be blown away or evaporate rather than feeding the plants. It is best to water during the coolest parts of the day. Time watering for early in the morning or in the evening. Only use sprinklers for large areas of grass, and adjust them so that water doesn’t go onto sidewalks or other impervious surfaces. For small areas or areas on a slope, water by hand.