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Ways to save water

Ways to save water

Updated 10 June 2009 8:55am

In the garden

Spreading mulch
Spreading mulch

Seasoned gardeners know that the secret to a healthy summer garden has more to do with preparation and how effectively you use water, rather than how much you use. By following these tips from experienced gardeners, your plants and lawn areas will be green, strong and healthy and you’ll probably save water too.


Check soil moisture before watering  If your soil is moist 10 centimetres below the surface, you don’t need to water. Check every 4-7 days in dry weather and water only if needed.

Water when it’s cool and calm  Wind and sun can quickly steal water meant for your garden, through evaporation. Only water on calmer days, in the cool of the early morning or evening, so that the benefit of your watering last longer.

Aim low and slow  Water close to the ground at a rate the soil can absorb. Plants take up moisture through their feeder roots and low, slow watering is the best way to get it there. Watering by hand or well-designed irrigation system is best. Moveable sprinklers are the least effective for saving water. 

Soak, don't sprinkle  Less frequent deep soakings (once or twice a week) encourage feeder roots to grow deeply in search of water. This will help your plants to survive short-term drought conditions. Frequent light sprinklings of water encourage shallow roots that are more vulnerable in dry weather.

Control your hose with a trigger  A trigger device lets you stop and start the water flow from your hose instantly. You can direct water where you need it without wasting a drop. Turn the tap off when you've finished, otherwise the hose may spring a leak.

Take aim  Use directional sprinklers so your garden is watered, rather than your paths, fences etc. If you want to clean paths, please use a broom.

Catch it if you can!  A small moat dug around the base of a tree or shrub will give the water a chance to soak in rather than running off.

Don't over water  Over-watering encourages fungus, root rot, rusts, mildew and blackspot.

Using a sprinkler? Time 30 minutes  Avoid using sprinklers if possible.  If using a sprinkler, established plants only need 30 minutes watering once or twice a week in dry weather, as long as the water can soak into the ground. Sprinklers can use as much water in an hour as a family of four uses in a day. Timing 30 minutes can make a difference.

Use a timer and moisture meter with your sprinkler  A timer attached to your hose allows you to deliver a controlled amount of water to your garden. A moisture meter will prevent over watering by overriding your timer when the soil is moist.


Use mulch to retain moisture  Mulch can cut evaporation by up to 70% by protecting your soil from the drying effects of wind and sun. Grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded paper, peat or straw can all make good mulch. Make sure soil is moist before mulching and leave a space of a few centimetres around trunks and stems to prevent the development of fungal diseases.

Remove weeds  Weeds compete for available moisture. Mulching helps to keep weeds out.

Condition your soil to hold water  Wetting agents and water storing polymers dramatically improve moisture penetration and retention in soils. These treatments need only be applied once a season. Use liquid fertilisers to promote plant growth without raising salt levels in the soil.

Know your plants  Perennials and vegetables need extra water in dry periods throughout the growing season. Most other plants (e.g. trees, shrubs, and climbers) need little or no extra water once they are established. There are many attractive plant varieties well suited to dry summer weather; ask your local nursery or garden centre for advice.

Plant in groups  By grouping the plants in your garden into high or low water users, you can design a watering pattern that is better for your plants and will reduce waste of water.

Lawn care

Mowing   Leaving 25 - 30mm of leaf will provide shade to the roots and soil, slowing water loss and protecting your lawn from sunburn. Leave clippings on the lawn as mulch, to help conserve soil moisture and put nutrients back into the soil.


Avoid leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth  This simple act will save litres of water every time you brush.

Check for and fix leaks  A leaking toilet may not be seen or heard, but it can waste many thousands of litres of water in a year. Even a slow drip from a tap can waste 5 litres or more each day.

Install dual-flush toilets  If renovating your bathroom, install a 6 litre/3 litre dual-flush system. This allows you to use only as much water as needed.  A flush control device will save significant amounts of water on most types of toilet cistern.  With a single-flush cistern, place a brick, a 1 litre plastic milk bottle or a zip-lock plastic bag filled with water in the cistern to reduce the amount of water used for each flush.

Use full loads  Use full loads in your dishwasher and washing machine whenever possible.

Put the plug in  Use a plug in the sink when washing hands, dishes or vegetables.

Take shorter showers  Showers use 10 to 20 litres of water every minute. If you want to soak, a partially filled bath uses less water than long showers.

Install a water flow restrictor  Many showerheads put out 20 litres per minute, when 10 litres per minute is more than adequate. Major hardware or plumbing shops stock devices, which restrict the flow of water. Also, the less water you use in the shower, the more you save on water heating costs.