Are there water restrictions in your area?
We take it for granted that fresh, clean water will always be available, but in some parts of Northland, summer water shortages are common. There is only a certain amount of water in our rivers, streams and dams, and sometimes demand is greater than supply.
An average New Zealand family uses 250-300 litres of water per person per day.
Did you know?
In a typical household, water consumption is fairly evenly split between the:
- bathroom (25%)
- toilet (30%)
- kitchen and laundry (25%)
- outdoors (20%)
There are often restrictions on watering your garden in the summer in urban areas. Make sure you stay within the restrictions - a hose running at full volume uses 2000 litres of water per hour. This would fill 28 baths to the top.
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
Avoid watering in the heat of the day or in windy weather, when water will evaporate rather than soak into the ground. Only water on calmer days, in the cool of the early morning or evening, so that the benefit of your watering lasts longer.
Aim low and slow
Water the ground, not the leaves of trees and shrubs. Plants take up moisture through their feeder roots and low, slow watering is the best way to get it there. Watering leaves just increases water loss through evaporation, and on sunny days may damage them. Watering by hand or well-designed irrigation system is best. Moveable sprinklers are the least effective for saving water.
Soak, don't sprinkle
Soak your garden once every few days rather than giving it a quick drink every night. Light watering makes the plants shallow-rooted, and most of the water is wasted through evaporation. Soaking the ground every few days encourages the roots to go deeper into the soil to seek out moisture.
Use a sprinkler for 30 minutes
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.
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. Remember to turn the tap off when you've finished, otherwise the hose may spring a leak.
Use directional sprinklers so your garden is watered, rather than your paths, fences etc. If you want to clean paths, why not 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.
Washing water works
Grey water from baths, showers, sinks and washing machines can be used for watering the garden. This water also contains nutrients that are beneficial to the garden.
Preparing your garden
Plant for the conditions
In drought prone areas or areas where water restrictions are common, grow plants that flourish in dry conditions. Deep rooting plants are better able to survive drought.
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.
Mulch your garden with grass clippings or compost. Mulching can prevent up to 70% of water loss through evaporation. Make sure soil is moist before mulching and leave a space of a few centimetres around trunks and stems to prevent fungal diseases. The best mulch is well-rotted compost which will also improve the soil's ability to hold moisture.
From food waste to rich compost - a worm bin 'before' and 'after'.
Weeds compete for available moisture. Mulching helps to keep weeds out.
We have a lot of information on pest and weed control:
Go to our pest and weed section
Condition your soil to hold water
Wetting agents and water storing polymers really do 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.
Grow, don’t mow
For a healthy summer lawn, keep the grass long. 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.
Watering your lawn
If a green lawn is important to you, give it a good deep drink (10mm) once or twice a week in dry weather. Aerate or spike the soil to allow water to penetrate more easily.
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
This simple act will save litres of water every time you brush.
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 enough. 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.
Install dual-flush toilets
If renovating your bathroom, install or convert your existing cistern to a dual-flush system. This allows you to use only as much water as is needed. For single-flush toilets, you can save up to 40% of water by putting a weight in the cistern - like a half-full soft drink bottle or small brick.
Wash full loads
Make sure you have a full load when you use the washing machine. Otherwise, use the half or lower level settings for smaller loads. A washing machine uses about 150 litres of water for one cycle.
Water play wastes
If you let children play with the hose, keep a tab on the time. A running hose can waste over 2000 litres of water every hour.
Stop those leaks
If your house has a water meter, carry out regular checks for leaks. First, make sure all the taps in the house are turned off. Take the meter reading, then re-check the meter after an hour. If the reading has advanced and no-one has used any water during the period, you probably have a leak.
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.