Yard care: Best ways to conserve water

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

Green your yard

You adore your lawn, but it's an obvious target for cutting your household water consumption. Here's how you can conserve water without sacrificing the green yard you love.

house with an artificial lawn

Minimize watering

Start your water conservation mission by setting your alarm clock. Time of day is critical when deciding when to water your lawn. By watering in the early morning hours, you'll avoid having water evaporate into the mid-day heat. Temperatures are cooler, and wind is lighter at dawn, which also helps minimize evaporation. Using a layer of organic mulch around plants also helps cut evaporation when watering. Adjust your mower to a higher setting; longer grass helps your yard retain moisture. If you're not sure if your lawn needs to be watered, give it the footprint test: Take a walk across your grass. Does your grass stay flat where you stepped, or spring back up to attention? If it stays flat, that means it lacks moisture; give it it a drink.

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Waste not

Household runoff water from your bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs and laundry machines may be called wastewater, but that doesn't mean it has to go to waste. The EPA recommends checking with your local water officials to determine if "graywater" systems are available to pipe such used water to a storage tank for use in outdoor watering. According to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, homes with access to such alternative sources of irrigation can reduce their water bills up to 25 percent. If you live in a rainy area, consider directing your downspout into a covered barrel. Check with your state's water resource agency to make sure you're not breaking any laws by collecting and re-using rainwater in your yard.

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The X factor

Xeriscaping is the use of a landscape design that minimizes water use. In hot, dry climates, this might mean replacing grass and plants that require constant watering with more drought-resistant vegetation. It could also involve the installation of irrigation systems that deliver only the amount of water needed, such as drip irrigation. As a side benefit, xeriscape landscapes typically require far less maintenance, since there are fewer leaves to rake, weeds to pull and lawn to mow. Check with your local government to determine if any rebates are available for converting to xeriscape landscaping. Even if you're not willing to convert your entire emerald-green lawn to desert landscaping, transforming even a portion of yard will have a positive impact on the environment.

5 Spring backyard maintenance tips >>

Fake it

Imagine having a lush grassy yard that never needs mowing, doesn't get muddy and requires zero watering. Today's faux grass offers all of the beauty and practicality of a real lawn with none of the upkeep. NewGrass is an eco-friendly synthetic grass that is safe for pets and kids, and doesn't require the pesticides or fertilizer . Plus, if you ever tire of your synthetic lawn or need to replace it, the artificial grass can be recycled.

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