Our planet is becoming increasingly warmer and drier as a result of climate change. Droughts are more frequent, and water scarcity is a growing concern. At the same time, the global human population is steadily growing, together with the demand for dwindling water resources.
Water is our most valuable resource; it sustains all life on the planet. Without water we cannot grow food, and we simply cannot survive. It is believed that extended drought and water shortages caused the demise of the ancient Mayan civilization. Yet, the value of water is often overlooked, and not enough emphasis is placed on water conservation, particularly conserving water outdoors.
High Efficiency — Indoors vs Outdoors
The key tenet of conservation is the replacement of low-efficiency products with high-efficiency products. In the USA, Energy Star and WaterSense are EPA Programs that provide simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions related to energy and water resource using products.
WaterSense, founded in 2006, is a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s both a label for water-efficient products and a resource for helping you save water. Indoor products certified by WaterSense label include low flush toilets, water efficient shower heads and faucets. In fact,
these are standard installations in modern homes. Consequently, anyone using any of the above devices automatically saves water without giving it a second thought. Thanks to the availability of these water efficient devices, water saving in the home is much more common now than it was ten or twenty years ago. But what about outside?
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about water conservation outside the home. As soon as we walk out the front door water conservation seems to drop down the list of priorities. While we have a choice of products to help us conserve water indoors, there is a dire lack of water conservation tools available for the homeowner who wishes to use water more efficiently in the garden.
The disparity between the availability of water efficiency tools for use indoors versus outdoors is stark. While countries such as Australia and America have water efficiency ratings for indoor products, outdoor watering products are currently not rated for efficiency. Consequently, there is not a single high-efficiency water product available on the market. In fact, there has been very little progress in terms of improving the efficiency of outdoor watering products since 1950.
“The next critical water conservation opportunity is the yard” — Texas Living Waters
Outdoor water use accounts for almost one third of water used in the average American home and this figure rises significantly in hotter, drier regions of the country, where it can be as high as 70%. It’s estimated that residential outdoor use accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water daily, most of this being used to water gardens and lawns. It is estimated that around 50% of this water is wasted due to over-watering, largely due to inefficient irrigation methods and systems.
This effectively means that every day in the US alone, 4.5 billion gallons of water is lost to evaporation, wind and runoff due to inefficient watering methods. That’s 1.65 trillion gallons of drinking water wasted each year. These figures are simply staggering — imagine how many more trillions of our most valuable resource gets wasted globally. Clearly, we need to improve water efficiency in the garden, but how?
Outdoor High Efficiency Solutions
To prevent overwatering, the EPA suggests using irrigation systems that have low-pressure spray nozzles fitted on sprinkler bodies together with a smart irrigation control system that delivers the correct amount of water to the plants, only when they need it. While these may certainly be an improvement on high-pressure sprinklers controlled by a not-so-smart irrigation controller that operates on a timer mechanism, can they really prevent water wastage due to evaporation?
Drip irrigation is another watering method that is touted as being a more efficient alternative to conventional watering methods. Yet, while convenient and much more efficient than spraying water everywhere, this can also be wasteful if not monitored properly. An undetected leak or sliced pipe can result in excessive wastage, and because water is being delivered to the plant on the surface of the soil, albeit more slowly, evaporation is still potentially an issue.
Water Wise Gardening
Gardeners by their very nature tend to appreciate and care about the environment. Therefore, they are typically interested in saving water wherever they can, both for environmental and financial reasons. Let’s face it, water costs money, and sustainable gardening aside, most gardeners want to keep their water bills as low as possible. There is a myriad of ways to achieve this, but it’s complicated.
We can xeriscape using drought-tolerant native plants, use mulch to reduce the rate of evaporation, and irrigate using soaker hoses, drip irrigation or smart irrigation controllers. We can water early in the morning or in the evening, when evaporation tends to be lower, and refrain from watering when the wind is blowing. Trying to follow different advice can be complicated, confusing, and ultimately not very effective at conserving water.
Getting to the Root of the Matter
So, what really works? When we irrigate, water slowly seeps into the soil where it is taken up by the plant’s roots. Water on the surface is vulnerable to evaporation, especially if it is hot, dry and windy. So ideally, we need to be applying water at root level rather than on the soil surface where is prone to evaporation. But how can we do that?
High-efficiency hand watering is part of the solution. With a highly efficient hand watering product such as the WiserWand, which delivers water underground at the root level, gardeners can water whenever it’s convenient for them to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s windy or if it’s 100 degrees outside. Neither the weather nor the climate affects the water efficiency of the tool. If the plants need water and you want to water, simply go ahead and water. High efficiency changes the rules, making life far less complicated for the gardener.
Outdoor Water Efficiency Going Forward
To improve water efficiency outdoors, the focus needs to be on high-efficiency products. This strategy improved water efficiency indoors and will improve water efficiency outdoors too. All that is needed is a shift in outdoor water conservation policy together with a little creative innovation. Without a change in policy nothing will happen. Incandescent light bulbs didn’t disappear on their own. Target dates were set for them to be phased out. It needs to become mandatory for all outdoor watering products sold to include a water efficiency label. WaterSense already does this for indoor products and smart irrigation controllers. This needs to be extended to include drip irrigation systems, nozzles, sprinklers, hand-watering wands, etc. Policymakers need to set a target date by which all outdoor water products sold will carry this water efficiency label.
Having this information readily available on the product label will allow gardeners to choose the most water efficient product for their needs and ultimately help them conserve water in their gardens. This will go a long way to curb the trillions of gallons of water wasted every year due to inefficient irrigation methods.
What is High-efficiency?
According to Watersense high-efficiency products have one thing in common. They use a minimum of 20% fewer resources “every time” they’re used when compared to their low-efficiency counterparts. Flush a high-efficiency toilet or run a high-efficiency washer and you’re guaranteed to use at least 20% less water. The WiserWand guarantees 20% savings over existing hand watering products.
It’s time for high-efficiency in the garden. It’s time for the WiserWand.