Xeriscaping: A Great Way to Save Water

The Not-So-New Method That Helps Conserve Water in Dry Climates

It sounds like an escape room. Just picture it. The room has one window, a toolkit with one broken tool, and is filled with your closest friends. The countdown has started and you have 20 minutes to figure out how to escape. 

Except this …is none of that. It’s called Xeriscaping. Pulled from the phrase “zero-scaping”, xeriscaping is actually an irrigation process that effectively saves you from watering your lawn.xeriscaping_body This is done by a few methods, the primary of which involves choosing plants that can survive in a typically dry region without access to water. Ultimately, the specific plants used when xeriscaping depend entirely upon which climate you live in.

Not to be confused with Natural Landscaping — a method of choosing plants native to that climate — Xeriscaping is sometimes viewed negatively for having lawns covered in gravel and cacti. But if you learn the proper tools of the trade, you can have a well-manicured lawn that even the Jones’ would be jealous of. No water necessary.

With that in mind, here’s how it works, and how it can save your household water.

Do Americans Really Care About Xeriscaping?

First of all, let’s take a look and see how much this strategy has been tried and tested, and if xeriscaping can really make a difference in America.

We recently survey we conducted of 2,000 participants, asking them questions all about eco-consciousness. 

From the data, we found that 10% of all survey respondents said that they used xeriscaping as a method for water conservation in their own home. Additionally, when we split the audience via “water worriers vs. non”, we discovered that those in the “water worriers” group were 113% more likely to do xeriscaping in their homes. 

From a regional perspective, xeriscaping was by far the most common in the Western Region of the U.S. 

In doing this survey, we found that the vast majority of respondents (76%, to be exact) consider the environment extremely or very important. That’s a great sign. Even so, with a constant deluge of new information about the impact of our disposal and purchasing habits, it’s difficult to get it all right.

we found that 10% of all survey respondents said that they used xeriscaping as a method for water conservation in their own home.

The Xeriscaping Method

The method was originally drafted up by the Denver Water Department as part of an overall initiative to get residents to save water during dry seasons. With Colorado averaging only 15 inches of rain per year, the initiative has been described as a huge success. Starting with Plant and Design, they based the Xeriscaping process on seven principals: 

  • Plan and design – Map out how you want your landscape to look, which plants will grow where, etc. The less competition or conflict each plant has with each other, the better the chance for survival.
  • Soil amendment – Have a grasp on how much soil, compost, gravel and more you will need for your project.
  • Efficient irrigation – Irrigation can be done by hand or with a sprinkler system. Avoid watering between 10am and 6pm to prevent the air from quickly evaporating off of your plants and into the atmosphere. Spray, drip line and bubbler emitters are recommended for these areas
  • Mulch – Rocks and gravel should be applied at least 2 inches deep. Organic mulches, such as bark chips or wood shavings should be at least 4 inches deep.
  • Plant zones – that in order “to minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements. Put high-water-use plants in low-lying drainage areas, near downspouts or in the shade of other plants.”
  • Alternative turf grasses – Use alternative turf grasses that stand a higher chance of survivability in drier climates to reduce the need for water waste.
  • Maintenance – And finally, the DWD recommends, “All landscapes require some degree of care during the year. Turf requires spring and fall aeration along with regular fertilization every 6 to 8 weeks. Keep your grass height at 3 inches and allow the clippings to fall. Never cut more than one-third of the grass’ height. Trees, shrubs and perennials will need occasional pruning to remove dead stems, promote blooming or control height and spread. Much of the removed plant material can be shredded and used in composting piles.”

The Cost of Xeriscaping and Water Conservation

Lastly, let’s look at the cost of xeriscaping. After all, no landscaping project comes without time or money invested. 

For starters, The National Geographic reports that “xeriscaping [supporters] say it can reduce water use by 50 or 75 percent.”

A region in California tested out offering water conservation incentives to its residents to convert from traditional landscaping to xeriscaping. “The citys water department estimated that the houses that chose xeriscaping saved 120 gallons of water a day.”

Yes, you read that right. That’s 120 gallons per day. But xeriscaping can save your household in more ways than one. 

Experts estimate that xeriscaping costs the average household $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot. From a water savings/utility bill perspective, they estimate that residents who use xeriscaping save roughly 36 cents per square foot annually.

Experts estimate that xeriscaping costs the average household $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot. From a water savings/utility bill perspective, they estimate that residents who use xeriscaping save roughly 36 cents per square foot annually.

Again, no project is without its time or money commitment. But when it comes to learning more about alternative water conservation methods, you’re not alone. After all, many of our aforementioned survey respondents (76%) aspire to be environmentally conscious, saying that the environment is extremely important. It’s when we take our eco-conscious efforts seriously and understand how our next project can save both our water bill and Mother Earth, then we can really begin to save water — no matter what climate you live in.

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