Water Smart Irrigation

Did you know that most residential landscapes are regularly over-watered by as much as 30-40%? When using water for irrigation, it is not only economical to use only what your garden needs, but it conserves water for other uses during our long, dry summers. If left unchecked, wasteful irrigation can be a major consumer of precious potable water sources like local groundwater stores and the Russian River. Here are some helpful steps you can take to reduce your reliance on potable water for irrigation:

Grow Native Plants

The reason native plants are ‘native’ is because they have adapted to their local surroundings and have found their niche in terms of navigating seasonal changes in climate. Many of these native plants require no irrigation at all and have adapted to long stretches without any additional watering whatsoever! Incorporating these plants in your landscape and garden can drastically reduce water consumption. As a bonus, these native plants act as a haven for beneficial insects, native plants, and animals, which benefits and sustains our local ecosystems.

Visit rrwatershed.org/project/rrflg  for Russian River-Friendly Landscaping resources and information on selecting Russian River-Friendly Plants.

Minimize Turf Areas

Historically, lawns have been areas of recreation and socialization between friends and family, however, turf areas require a significant amount of water to stay healthy through long dry seasons. Furthermore, many lawns are often treated with toxic herbicides and contribute towards greenhouse gas emissions when maintained with a gas-powered lawn mower. Replacing some (or all) of your existing lawn with mulch and native plants will increase water use efficiency, promote onsite water infiltration, and reduce your overall water consumption.

Utilize Alternative Sources for Water

Given a little ingenuity, potable water from your hose or faucet doesn’t have to be the only source of irrigation for your garden or landscape. Rainwater and graywater are both excellent sources of irrigation that can be applied to replace potable water consumption. Water that normally falls on your roof is routed away from your property and towards your local stormwater collection system, however, this water can be rerouted to on-site storage tanks which can be later drawn from as a source of irrigation. Graywater from sinks, showers, and washing machines, albeit non-potable, also serves as an excellent source of irrigation so long as your graywater system meets local regulations.

Audit your Irrigation Methods

The last piece of advice is to audit your own irrigation methods. This means critically analyzing how and when you water your landscape to determine the most significant areas that can be improved upon in terms of water efficiency. Do you water your landscape manually with a hose? Consider using a hose nozzle with a built-in shut-off trigger to prevent wasting water when moving between plants. Do you water your landscape with a drip system? Periodically check for leaks, especially near places of erosion or overgrowth. Taking a closer look at your average watering methods will undoubtedly reveal some areas where water efficiency can be improved!

According to the American Water Works Association, 85% of all landscape problems are caused by overwatering. Next time your home garden isn’t giving you the results you were expecting, it might be advantageous to take some time out of your day to analyze how you normally water. You might find that when you irrigate to meet your landscape’s needs, not only will your plants remain healthy and thrive throughout the year, but you will save on utility costs and reduce your carbon footprint all at the same time!


This article was authored by Josh Steiner, RRWA staff. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.