Keeping a green lawn is often a priority for homeowners in the United States. In fact, a well-maintained lawn is often viewed as a sign of success and a “physical manifestation of the American Dream of home ownership,” as Krystal D’Costa observes in Scientific American.
Keeping a green lawn throughout the warm season gives many homeowners a sense of pride, but what are the costs? Water overuse has drastic environmental impacts.
Water Overconsumption in the U.S.
Each American uses an average of 82 gallons of water at home every day, which costs the average family more than $1,000 a year. More than 30% of that water is used outdoors in lawns and gardens, but it can rise to as much as 60% in arid regions.
The EPA says that watering the average-sized U.S. lawn 20 minutes a day for one week is equivalent to leaving the shower running for four days straight. Given that at least one U.S. region undergoes significant drought each year, individuals and industries alike have good reason to minimize unnecessary water consumption habits.
From 2011 to 2017, California experienced a debilitating drought that caused more than 90% of the state to experience water deprivation. To ensure enough drinking water, the governor ordered mandatory water restrictions requiring residents to cut back on watering lawns, washing cars, and indulging in long showers. Unfortunately, this was not a one-time occurrence. Currently (July 2022), much of the southwestern United States is experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions.
Water use increases greatly from June to September as warm, dry weather makes its way across the United States and water demand peaks. Excessive outdoor water use intensifies this demand. Many homeowners are making the shift to “go gold” by reducing the amount of watering during those crucial summer months and letting their grass turn from green to a seasonal gold.
Some cities and homeowners’ associations require proper lawn maintenance and green grass. But more and more green-minded municipalities are adopting the “go gold” model, saving tons of valuable water. If yours isn’t on board yet, let them know they should be.
Cutting back on personal water use not only saves money, but also benefits the environment by diverting less water from our rivers, bays, and estuaries. It lowers energy demand for pumping and treating water and reduces air pollution from busy wastewater treatment plants.
More Ways to Cut Down
If going gold isn’t on your to-do list, there are more options to reduce outdoor water use:
- Maintain Water Systems
Nearly half of the water we use in our yards is lost from wind, evaporation, and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation systems, wasting more than 25,000 gallons of water each year. If you have an irrigation system — or even just a sprinkler — make sure to properly maintain it and check for leaks.
- Use Native Plants
Because plants thrive in their native climate, they require minimal maintenance. Native plants need less water, fertilizer, and pesticides to grow. Climate-appropriate landscaping like xeriscaping requires minimal water but can still be lush and aesthetically pleasing.
- Go Grass-Free
Who says houses need a bright green lawn? If you don’t want to let your grass go gold, think outside the box and create a grass-free landscaping design for your yard. Use things like beauty bark, native plants, and polished stones to spruce things up and virtually eliminate outdoor water needs.
Clean water is essential for life on Earth. Consider human and environmental health next time you reach for the hose.
Feature image by Couleur at pixabay.com. Originally published on July 10, 2018, this article was updated in July 2022.