Oklahoma Water Resources Center

New website offers tips for conserving water in landscapes

May 30, 2013

Oklahomans are more than familiar with the blistering heat during the summer months. The heat, coupled with little rainfall, has caused much of the state to experience drought conditions for the last few years.

To help combat water issues and promote water conservation, the Oklahoma City Utilities Department has partnered with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension and OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, to develop a website that promotes water conservation through proper outdoor watering and drought-tolerant landscaping. The website address is http://thinkwater.okstate.edu.

Justin Moss, OSU Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist, said the website is geared toward all Oklahoma homeowners and believes water conservation is something everyone should practice all the time.

“Water is a precious, nonrenewable resource we tend to undervalue. We’ve all learned the traditional water cycle that ensures water will always come back around,” Moss said. “However, with increases in urbanization, pollution and drought across the United States, we’ve started rethinking the illusion of water abundance.”

In Oklahoma, about 30 percent to 40 percent of household water is used outdoors. Homeowners, especially during the hot summer months, use a significant amount of water in their landscapes.

Malarie Gotcher, OSU Cooperative Extension associate, said there are several things gardening enthusiasts can do to help reduce the amount of water they use.

“First of all, selecting heat and drought-tolerant plants is crucial for reducing water consumption,” Gotcher said. “In addition, improve your soil by adding compost and organic matter. This will help increase the water holding capacity and infiltration of your soil.”

Mulch can help maintain soil moisture, as well as prevent weeds and reduce soil erosion. Mulch also helps improve soil quality as it decomposes. It is best to maintain a 2 inch to 3 inch layer around established trees, shrubs and bedding plants.

Gotcher said to be careful not to pile too much mulch around the base of trees since it can hold moisture and encourage trunk rot.

When it comes to watering, water your landscape at the right time and only when needed.

“The best time to water is early morning, followed by the evening hours when the winds are likely to be calmer and the temperature a bit cooler,” Gotcher said. “This will help reduce water loss from evaporation. Allowing the soil to dry between watering allows plans to develop strong, deep roots.”

Moss encourages homeowners to fix or replace broken sprinkler heads and to realign sprinkler heads to avoid unnecessary watering of sidewalks, roadways and other hardscapes.

“Homeowners also may want to consider low volume, micro irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs,” he said. “Drip irrigation and micro irrigation slowly apply water, which in turn minimizes evaporation and runoff. Another water saving tip is to install a rain sensor. These are relatively inexpensive and can be retrofitted to most systems and will turn off your irrigation system during a rain event.”

Moss also suggests conducting an irrigation audit.

“Knowing how to schedule the number of minutes and days per week for watering reduces the amount of water wasted,” he said. “The website offers instruction for how to conduct an irrigation audit.”

Do not worry if your grass starts turning brown. It simply may be going dormant to survive the hot, dry summer.

Another tip Moss offers homeowners is to mow your grass at a higher height. Raise the blade on the lawn mower to at least 1 inch for Bermudagrass lawns and 3 inches for tall fescue lawns.

“This will reduce the need for water and also provides natural mulch that protects the soil moisture,” he said.

For additional information about the thinkwater website, please contact Moss at 405-744-5729, or via email at justin.moss@okstate.edu; Gotcher at 405-297-3380, or email at malarie.gotcher@okstate.edu; or John Schroeder at 405-744-5409, or email at john.schroeder@okstate.edu.


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
136 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)


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