Outdoor Water Conservation
In Jacksonville, we use 3 to 4 times more water in the summer than in the winter. Tourism is only partially responsible for that increase. The biggest culprits include yard and garden irrigation, more frequent car washing, and other outdoor water uses. By taking action to use less water during the hottest and driest part of the year, together we can reduce demand on the water sources we share with neighboring communities, stretch the City’s existing water supplies, and help our community thrive.
City of Jacksonville Water Use in Summer vs. Winter
Building a Water-Wise Landscape
Lawns and gardens need a lot of water during the dry months. With a little bit of planning, you can modify your yard to create more drought-tolerant areas that require less water—and still look beautiful.
- Observe the Landscape: Map out the features of your property and micro-climates that exist, such as differences in light or soil moisture in your yard. For example, sloped or shady spots may need less water than flatter or sunnier areas. You can measure soil moisture by using a soil moisture probe, or by digging into the soil with a shovel or hand trowel and feeling whether the soil is wet enough to stick together or falls apart due to dryness. Think about how you would like to use your space and if there are places you could modify to conserve water. The greatest water savings comes from replacing lawn with drought-resistant plants or rock gardens that require little or no irrigation in the summer. Front and side yards are ideal for this kind of xeriscaping (landscaping that requires little or no irrigation).
- Use Native Plants: Native plants are great for xeriscaping in our region. They are naturally drought-tolerant, help to attract song birds and pollinators, and are beautiful.
- Amend the Soil: Add organic matter by applying compost, bio-char, or planting cover crops to encourage root establishment. Add mulch, such as bark or rocks, to your garden to help retain soil moisture. This helps plants better tolerate drought so you can use less water.
- Make an Irrigation Plan: Come up with a plan for making sure you are watering only the areas that need it and giving your plants no more water than they need. If you have an irrigation system, use controllers to set your system to run for a limited amount of time in the early morning or late evening. Drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses are an effective and inexpensive way to use minimal amounts of water while giving your plants what they need.
Smart Irrigation Tools
The way you irrigate makes a big difference for water savings. These tools can help you use less water when you irrigate:
- Weather-based irrigation controllers turn your irrigation system off when it’s raining and on when it’s dry.
- Soil moisture sensors measure the water content in your soil and provide real-time information about how much water your plants need.
- High-efficiency sprinkler heads send rotating streams of water close to the ground at low pressure to minimize evaporation. These are better than high-pressure sprinkler heads, which create mist that gets lost to evaporation and wind.
- Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are an affordable DIY alternative to a built-in irrigation system, and are particularly water-efficient. For tips and how-to information, visit the Saving Water Partnership.
Other Outdoor Water Conservation Tips
Minor changes to the way you use water outdoors can have measureable impacts on both the amount of water you use and your water bill. Here are some easy things you can do:
- Check your irrigation system for leaks and repair any leaks you find, even if they appear to be minor.
- Irrigate in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are lower, so less water evaporates before it can be absorbed by plants.
- Keep sprinklers aimed low to the ground to minimize water loss to wind and evaporation.
- Avoid using sprinklers when it is windy to keep water from blowing where it is not needed.
- Check that you aren’t watering the pavement. Observe your sprinklers and adjust them as needed to minimize overspray onto pavement.
- Take your car out for a wash. Take your car to a carwash that recycles water. If you do wash your car at home, use a hose nozzle so that you can start and stop the water while washing.