The Madison Water Utility has led an effort to develop a comprehensive water conservation program for the city. The Water Conservation and Sustainability Plan of 2008 (PDF) looks at a variety of things that can be done by the city and its residents and businesses to reduce our impact on the water resources that help make Madison such a great place to live, work and play.
Good Outdoor Watering Practices
- Water lawn and garden, not pavement: Position sprinklers so that water lands on plantings and isn’t lost to evaporation or the storm drain.
- Check weather reports or buy a rain gauge to monitor whether watering in addition to rain is needed; most established lawn and garden plantings do well on an inch of water per week.
- During drought, turf grass plants need only 1/4 inch of water a month to survive. If lawn and garden do need water, limit loss to evaporation.
- Water before 8:00 a.m. when it isn't windy, position a sprinkler to avoid losing water on driveways or sidewalks, and water slowly so the soil can absorb the water.
- Water the lawn only when needed. Step on the grass; if it springs back up when you move your foot, it does not need water.
- Water less frequently and thoroughly. A good soaking is better than watering frequently and will allow the roots to grow to greater depths and help make turf more drought tolerant. Lawns need about 1 inch per week. Hint: Place 3-5 empty tuna or cat food cans at varied distances from the sprinkler. The time it takes to fill the cans is about how long you should water your lawn.
- Consider alternate-side use in hot, dry conditions when many people may be watering. In addition to the recommendations above, if your house has an even-number address, limit outdoor use to even-numbered calendar days; if it has an odd-number address choose odd-numbered calendar days.
- The University of Wisconsin-Extension publishes an excellent lawn watering guide (pdf).
Collect rain water in a rain barrel or cistern
Water that runs off hard surfaces such as roofs can be collected and put to use in the garden. Rain water is “soft,” without groundwater minerals or chlorine, so it's more plant-friendly than tap water. Capturing water from gutters and downspouts in a well-designed rain barrel conserves the municipal supply while providing the best water for lawn and garden.
Only Rain In The Storm Drain!
Everything from our streets drains to surface waters and someone's ground water, so we need to try to keep plant material, toxins (fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide) and debris out of the storm sewers—and we need to avoid wasting ground water by sending it down the storm drain.
Manage rainfall on your property as much as possible, using the contour of the area and plantings to slow the flow of water, use it and offer it back to the atmosphere. To learn more, visit City of Madison Engineering, Water Quality Initiatives, Rain Gardens