Photo: VAST Enterprises
Talking about residential landscape water conservation is, as Green View Companies Division Manager David Pence says, “a hard sell. We’ve had three years of almost double the normal annual precipitation rate in central Illinois.
“But, with the increase in urban development and roads, more of that water is making its way into storm drains, which flow into tributaries,” Pence said. “And, then it’s a race down to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico — not recharging our underground reservoir.”
Pence recommends several approaches that combine beauty and function to conserve water.
Install systems to capture and hold rain water. It’s called “rain harvesting,” Pence says, and although it’s been slow to catch on in central Illinois, these methods are growing in popularity in many other areas. The simplest approach is the traditional rain barrel. The latest method is similar to a large waterbed. Called a rainwater pillow by one manufacturer, it holds 700 to 200,000 gallons, fits under a deck or walkout and can be fitted with a pump to direct water anywhere you want to provide irrigation.
This is a closed system, Pence adds, so mosquito growth is not an issue, noting that another advantage to using rainwater for irrigation, for a gray-water toilet, or any other non-potable water use is the lack of salts found in tap water.
For more information on the variety of water collection systems available commercially, as well as instructions on build-it-yourself options, search “rain harvest” or “rain water harvesting” on the Internet.
Build berms, bog gardens or ornamental fish ponds to collect runoff. Use scraps of pond liner rather than fully lining gardens so excess water can slowly seep into the ground instead of running into the storm sewer.
Use permeable pavers, porous concrete or porous asphalt that will allow water to seep into the ground rather than run off down the driveway or sidewalk. This type of hardscape can be installed to direct excess water into a retention area for use later.
Just five years ago, the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics published a study of landscapes, water use and upkeep costs written by Brian Hurd. At that time, according to the study, converting a 50-foot by 100-foot turfgrass lawn in the Western United States to shrubs, flowers, gardens and drought-tolerant trees would reduce annual water consumption from 100,000 gallons per year to 35,000 gallons; water costs from $300 to $100; maintenance costs from $1,200 to $200; and maintenance time from 300 hours to 50. Incremental changes produced impressive results as well.
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