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July 26, 2011

MADISON - July's heat and humidity may tempt some homeowners to double up on lawn watering, but it's a great time to turn the faucet down and move in the other direction, state water conservation officials say.

"Summer's a great time to assess your yard and see what your options are for using less water while still maintaining those features that make your yard special or important to you," says Shaili Pfeiffer, a groundwater specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Some changes can be made immediately to reduce water use and maintain or improve healthy lawns and gardens. Other changes may require a little more planning and are best implemented over time, but can pay off big by saving on water and electricity bills while helping replenish groundwater supplies and creating a beautiful yard that attracts and feeds butterflies and birds, Pfeiffer says.

Here are seven steps for saving water, money and electricity this summer and beyond:

  1. Lawn watering: Homeowners who can't bring themselves to let their lawn go brown and dormant can protect their lawn while using water more efficiently by taking these steps:
    • Water your lawn with one inch of water weekly. Too much water or watering too frequently can damage the grass roots or create shallow roots.
    • Water early in the morning. Grass will get more of the irrigation water and less will be lost to evaporation.
    • Cut your grass no shorter than two inches. Taller grass requires less water and results in less evaporation.
    • Check the weather. No need to water if your area has had an inch of rain in the past week. If a rainstorm is forecasted for the next day or two, you can safely put off watering.
  2. Decrease lawn area: Convert lawn into garden beds that use less water. Look for places that are difficult to mow or where adding some varied plants will enhance your yard's visual appeal. Establishing circles around trees, borders along fences, houses, garages and paths are all good places to start. Replace the lawn with drought tolerant plants that won't need water after being established.
  3. Use native plants: Plants and shrubs native to Wisconsin come in beautiful varieties with choices to bloom throughout the season, adapted to varied soil types and light conditions and to Wisconsin's weather. Correctly matched to soil and light needs, once established, native plants will survive wet weather and drought conditions alike.
  4. Redirect downspouts to the lawn or a rain garden: Redirecting downspouts into a lawn or a garden allows some rainwater to soak into the soil and eventually reach the water table. This practice keeps water local and on your property as much as possible.
  5. Plant a rain garden: A rain garden is a specialized garden that uses water typically captured from a roof, and allows the rain to slowly infiltrate into the ground, contributing to groundwater supplies and reducing stormwater runoff. Rain gardens promote water conservation by contributing to the supply of groundwater available, rather than reducing the water withdrawn.
  6. Install rain barrels: Installing a rain barrel connected to a downspout to create an additional water source. Rain barrel water can be used for outdoor and indoor non-edible plants. These barrels usually hold 50 gallons and fill quickly in a rainstorm.
  7. Visit DNR at Wisconsin State Fair and get a free faucet aerator: A faucet aerator reduces the flow of water through the faucet, saving water while maintaining adequate pressure for hand washing, for example. DNR will be giving out free faucet aerators, one per family, at its water conservation booth in the south building of the Natural Resources Park at the Wisconsin State Fair, August 4-14, in West Allis.

More information and links to resources to increase water efficiency are available in the June Natural Resources magazine article, "Water Conservation and Efficiency," and can be found in a "Better Homes and Groundwater" (pdf) publication on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Shaili Pfeiffer (608) 267-7630

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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