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Outdoor water conservation practices for summer

How you can be more efficient when watering your lawn and garden in hot, dry conditions.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), total daily household water use in the United States is approximately 29 billion gallons of water. About 9 billion gallons, or 30 percent, of the water used is devoted to the outdoors.

However, in the hot summer months, a household's outdoor water use can be as high as 70 percent. Here are some tips from the EPA to help you be more efficient when using water outside in your yard or garden this summer.

Timing is everything: Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility can offer recommendations for how much water certain plants need in your region and best times to water. Generally, it's best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and evening, after the sun goes down, because significant amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.

Look for the label: If your system uses a clock timer, consider upgrading to a WaterSense labeled controller which acts like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health. Replacing a standard clock timer with a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller can save an average home nearly 8,800 gallons of water annually.

Go with a pro: Contractors certified through a WaterSense labeled program can audit, install, or maintain home irrigation systems to ensure water isn't wasted. Make sure you ask for credentials.

Tune up your system: Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway.

Play zone defense: When planting, assign areas of your landscape different hydrozones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers, then adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones' specific needs. This helps you avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.

Even if your home doesn't have a sprinkler system, there are a number of simple steps you can take to promote a healthier lawn and garden with less water this summer:

Step on it: Grass doesn't always need water just because it's hot out. Step on the lawn, and if the grass springs back, it doesn't need water. An inexpensive soil moisture sensor can also show the amount of moisture at the plant's roots and discourage overwatering.

Leave it long: Raise your lawn mower blade. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation, and fewer weeds.

Give your hose a break: Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off. And don't forget to check for leaks at your spigot connection and tighten as necessary.

Read more about saving water:
7 ways to save water in the garden
Make a rain barrel in 7 easy steps
Tips for watering conservation

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