Don't overwater your lawn. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every five to seven days in the summer and every 10 to 14 days in the winter. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Buy a rain gauge and use it to determine how much rain your yard has received. Most of the year, lawns only need one inch of water per week.
Plant it smart. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain both your plants and irrigation system. More importantly, it will save time, money and water. For your free copy of Plant It Smart, an easy-to-use guide to Xeriscape landscaping, contact your water management district.
Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation.
Don't allow sprinklers to water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs... not the paved areas.
Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use. Micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water efficient irrigation methods.
Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly. Florida law now requires that "anyone who purchases and installs an automatic lawn sprinkler system MUST install a rain sensor device or switch which will override the irrigation cycle of the system when adequate rainfall has occurred." To retrofit your existing system, contact an irrigation professional for more information.
Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely-clipped lawn.
Avoid over fertilizing your lawn. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water. Apply fertilizers which contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, they do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Group plants together based on similar water needs.
Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom to clean leaves and other debris from these areas.
Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks. Check hose connectors to make sure plastic or rubber washers are in place. Washers prevent leaks.
Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn sprinklers off.
Avoid purchasing recreational water toys which require a constant stream of water.
Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park on the grass and use a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
Avoid the installation of ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless the water is recycled.
If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single backflushing with a traditional filter uses 180 to 250 gallons of water.
*As adapted from the Southwest Florida Water Management District web site (www.swfwmd.state.fl.us), images courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior/Bureau of Reclamation.