Arizona back yard with pool

Water Conservation Basics in Arizona

Water conservation has become a way of life for most Phoenix residents, but it’s becoming even more important during the current drought, city water officials say. Here’s a checklist from state conservation officials and the city of Phoenix’s web site to help you make sure you’re doing everything you can to save water—and money.

Review your monthly water bill. Any sudden upticks in water usage may indicate leaks in sprinklers, faucets, hoses or underground plumbing. If there’s a major leak, make sure all family members know how to shut off the master water valve.

Use low-flow plumbing and appliances. Consider replacing high-use showers, toilets, kitchen fixtures and appliances with low-flow ones. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) offers a Water Sense Program that designates water-saving products for your home, business and yard.

Recycle water. Greywater systems, which recycle water, make the water you use every day do double duty. You can hook up a line to your clothes washer so that the rinse water (greywater) drains into your yard to water plants. If you have an evaporative cooler, position the water drain so it drips on plants. According to Einav Henenson, a horticulturist at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, you can use greywater to grow fruit trees and other more tropical plants, which normally require more water than native plants. For help, consult a book like Art Ludwig’s “Create an Oasis with Gray Water.”

Prevent water runoff. Use porous materials for your walkways and patios to help guard against wasteful water runoff.

Sweep, don’t wash. When cleaning patios, sidewalks or driveways, use a broom instead of a hose.

Drain your pool infrequently. The Arizona Department of Water Resources says that pools “seldom need to be drained. But, if  your pool does, you can reuse the water in another way, such as watering plants, as long as you don’t use chemicals within 72 hours of reusing the water and you make sure the plants you’re watering can tolerate chlorine.

Program your sprinklers. Always water before sunrise and use your sprinkler less often during the rainy summer monsoon season, which typically begins in early July and goes through September.

Prevent over-watering. Look for signs such as footprints on grass, soggy ground, mushroom growth, mold, algae or yellowing leaves.

Landscape with desert plants. Henenson says 50 percent of all water goes toward landscaping in the United States. Cut back by replacing a water-guzzling plants with desert plants, which can save up to 550 gallons each year. These include honey mesquite, Murphy’s agave, hop bush, jojoba, and ironwood. “They not only use way less water, but are geared to the rainy seasons, like the summer monsoons,” Henenson says. Other suggested plants include low shrubs (red fairy duster, chuparosa, ocotillo); ground cover (desert marigold, sand verbena, blackfoot daisy); and cacti (prickly pear, saguaro, hedgehog).

Reduce your lawn. Some suburban Phoenix communities offer tax rebates for cutting back on your lawn. Artificial turf instead of natural grass is one option. Besides saving water, it eliminates costly and time-consuming twice-annual seedings.

Keep lower limbs on trees. They shade the yard and keep it cooler.

Group plants. Keep plants with the same watering needs together.

Change your watering device. Use emitters, which drip water directly on plant roots, instead of sprinklers, which spray water on a wide area, for desert plants.

For more information on these and other ways to conserve water, contact your local conservation office, attend a free landscape workshop or visit local demonstration gardens. For instance, the Watershed Management Group is a local co-op that offers water-harvesting workshops on subjects like yard makeovers and rainwater collection. Another resource is the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

Recommended by the Editors: