Results Are in for Two-Year
Water Efficiency Study
Outdoor water efficiency programs work.
That’s the conclusion reached by the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) following its two-year Landscape Transformation study. The AWE researched 14 different community-driven programs from across the country. In the final analysis, the AWE determined that these programs reduced outdoor water usage by 7 to 39 percent for program participants.
The water efficiency programs studied included incentives for efficient irrigation technologies, free distribution of mulch, turf removal and water-wise re-landscaping, and customer site audits. Water savings were achieved in every community, regardless of the climate, program type or incentives for participation. (To download the Landscape Transformation Executive Summary, click here.)
According to the EPA, nearly nine billion gallons of water are used each day outdoors, mainly for landscape irrigation. In addition, as much as 50 percent of water used outdoors is wasted due to evaporation, inefficient or broken equipment, and overwatering.
AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson sees this as an opportunity:
“There are still significant water savings to be found by changing the way we look at our lawns. As communities consider their long-term supply options, they should look at landscape transformation programs to help their water utility avoid more costly infrastructure-based solutions.”
In addition to the impact analysis of water utility programs, the AWE’s study also surveyed 3,000 North American homeowners to determine their interest in landscape transformation.
They found that homeowners typically misjudge the amount of water they use outdoors. More than half of those surveyed believe they use 10 to 30 percent of their overall water outdoors. But most homeowners in fact use 30 to 60 percent of their water outdoors, depending on the region and climate. (According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, the average American household uses more than 300 gallons of water per day.)
The AWE’s survey also revealed that most homeowners believe they are already efficient users of outdoor water. For instance, 41 percent stated that they already owned water-efficient sprinklers. However, industry manufacturers report that less than 20 percent of sprinkler head sales are for efficient models.
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Survey respondents also indicated a growing interest in sustainable landscapes. Low water use was one of the top three selected landscape attributes (42 percent). Most homeowners surveyed are looking for a variety of landscaping features, preferring more trees, shrubs, flowers and entertaining space than lawn.
Almost 80 percent of respondents were dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied with their current landscaping, and half believed their lawns are unhealthy or only partially healthy. But 85 percent believe they would need assistance with a landscape makeover; they’re looking to landscapers and irrigation professionals to help them change their landscapes.
The good news is: Survey respondents who had participated in an alternative landscaping program, were overwhelmingly (91 percent) satisfied with their new landscape. So homeowners want to use more sustainable landscaping, but they need help. That’s where irrigation professionals come in.
Advice from WaterSense
When consulting with homeowners about reducing their outdoor water waste, offer the following suggestions from WaterSense:
- Use regionally appropriate, drought-tolerant, or native plants that thrive in your climate.
- Add mulch to plant beds.
- Check sprinkler heads for breaks or leaks and make sure water is going where it’s needed.
- Test your irrigation system to ensure the zones are programmed correctly.
- Check your irrigation system to look for water efficiency improvements.
- Create an irrigation schedule that makes seasonal adjustments easy.
- Retrofit your irrigation system with new, water-efficient technologies, such as a WaterSense labeled controller, rainfall sensor, or high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles.
Beautiful and Smart
Clearly, homeowners are beginning to realize that they don’t have to sacrifice a beautiful landscape in order to become more sustainable.
AWE’s Dickinson summed it up nicely:
“Beautiful landscapes are a source of pride for homeowners, but [they] also want to be smart water users. Whether it’s installing a more efficient irrigation system, opting for drought-tolerant turf, or re-landscaping with climate-appropriate plants, we need to communicate that a sustainable landscape can be beautiful and water-conscious.”