2 – More on Irrigation and World Wide Use of Water – Then Landscaping

This relatively brief article was posted in 2009. As one can figure, water concerns are huge where the issues, technologies and landscape designs in this post take place – Reno.

In a later post I deliver the general amounts from “water audits” – all the rage out there and an assessment of one home’s water usage, dealing with irrigation and in-home usage from showers, dishwashers and the normal functional scenarios of our everyday existence. It’s sort of shocking.

From this article:

“Raising irrigation water efficiency typically means shifting from the less efficient flood or furrow system to overhead sprinklers or drip irrigation, the gold standard of irrigation efficiency. Switching from flood or furrow to low-pressure sprinkler systems reduces water use by an estimated 30 percent, while switching to drip irrigation typically cuts water use in half. A drip system also raises yields because it provides a steady supply of water with minimal losses to evaporation. Since drip systems are both labor-intensive and water-efficient, they are well suited to countries with a surplus of labor and a shortage of water.

A few small countries—Cyprus, Israel, and Jordan—rely heavily on drip irrigation. Among the big three agricultural producers, this more-efficient technology is used on 1–3 percent of irrigated land in India and China and on roughly 4 percent in the United States.

In recent years, small-scale drip-irrigation systems—virtually a bucket that relies on gravity to distribute the water through flexible plastic tubing—have been developed to irrigate small vegetable gardens with roughly 100 plants (covering 25 square meters). Somewhat larger drum systems irrigate 125 square meters. Large-scale drip systems using plastic lines that can be moved easily are also becoming popular. These simple systems can pay for themselves in one year. By reducing water costs and raising yields, they can dramatically raise incomes of smallholders.”

(Left click on pictures to enlarge)

Drip irrigation increases the productivity of water usage to more than 70% over the above-listed current standards which apply in surprisingly many places. More importantly, in terms of landscaping, drip irrigation and adaptations of garden and landscape design, alternatives are being sought to limit the more water-hoggish elements of our landscaping past.

One very major beneficiary of attention is obviously the famous “English Model” – great wide expanses of gorgeous and green grass. In the more recent relocation of millions of Americans, for example, to thriving Western cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Reno, criticisms of desert towns having monstrous amounts of grass are completely accurate in their condemnation. Inasmuch as these water worries are local, it is even more the case.

Personally, I have prided myself on adhering to some of these tenets, then even enlarging on them. Yes, I have installed large pieces of grass for clients in Reno and in California towns where water is becoming short-handed. I have had my own issues with finding alternatives to grass, personally, especially since I so admire all a great lawn can accomplish in terms of literally changing the micro-climate of weather inside a home’s individual envelope. Grass lawns cool things down; they evaporate, of course, and push moisture into the air in non humid climates; they look fabulous and are fun to walk on, sit on, lay on and play on. And, having said all that, I know lots of dudes who are utterly macho about having “the most killer lawn in the neighborhood”, lol. I do know these men and they are numerous!

This is great for Kentucky, where taking one’s chances on rainfall irrigating such water-intensive stuff can generally be relied on. But, even they are facing some drought conditions which have led to some scary fears. Atlanta, Georgia faces the results of their most recent drought with real existential trepidation. They failed to allow for this possibility in their water-planning and now face huge issues. My point is this – we all have some responsibility in a wiser use of the resource of water.

Let’s Review – This is a Kentucky Highway in an average Summer:

And this is a Nevada Highway:

Big difference.  😉   Note the lack of grass in the lower photo.

It would be useless asking Americans or Australians to not want gardens outside their homes. Them would be fighting words, anyway. The notion of beauty and of simple enjoyment is an issue which few would give over to any government body. For another thing, food gardening saves us money and grants us a known fruit or veggie with that famous maximum taste and which grows from fertilizers and nutrients and soils of which we are totally aware. When we bite into a Red Delicious Apple or into some gorgeously rich-tasting Yellow Grape Tomato – or when our asparagus finally makes it onto our tables after a few years of cultivation – we have a product of our own labors and a foodstuff we actually earned and which – by almost any criterion – tastes better than those mass-produced suckers we get from the store, sold by appearance in a small selection of variety.

So where do we all go?  Nevada?

Next, I will show how landscaping is adapting to the newer realities and will provide an explanation of how simple and easy converting to drip irrigation can be. The uses of drip irrigation can surprise us, as well, including automated watering of such things as hanging baskets, containers and raised beds. We will also deal with design issues, such as reducing the lawn square footage and producing beds which can handle shrubs and trees which use a tenth of the water of a lawn.



6 thoughts on “2 – More on Irrigation and World Wide Use of Water – Then Landscaping

  1. Hi, Steve

    As usual — love all the photos. 😉

    Regarding conserving water — I find myself gravitating towards native species more and more. Also, twice in the past month I’ve encountered people who don’t want a lawn at all. Tough groundcovers can sometimes be a good substitute.

    But, yes, The Lawn, as people call it, is a phenomenon unrivaled in the U.S. Men love to mow. That’s what it is — and if the lawnmower ever had louder pipes and chrome, the size of the average lawn would triple. Ok, so I tease, but it would be a good topic for a psych paper anyway.

    Now that I’ve practically written an article, I think I’ll pop over to the forum.


  2. Hi Heidi!! Thanks for dropping by. Heidi does landscaping and design work, too in Wisconsin. Her site is full of interesting notions and she is an old acquaintance here and the forum. Click on her name to get there.

    The “no lawn” look is making huge strides and, frankly, I back it 100%. Yes on the radical, motorcycle motif on men mowing their lawns. The thing is, it smells great, it’s outdoors, it’s your (customizable) machine – and there’s probably beer after. It’s really a no brainer.

    The forum is sleepy, dear. We seem to have lost all the “cat people” from Annette’s site in a weird run of internet-only behavior and are basically starting over. I refuse to give it up, however, and am ready to welcome a new generation of garden-lovers.

  3. Wow now that is a great piece of art that very large bra 🙂 :). Its amazing how little water changes ones look on an area I would never be able to live in such an arid area, I need my color. 🙂

  4. Yeah, Donna, some lady left that bra beside the highway, I guess. Too bad, because basketball coaches the world over were wanting her number! 😉

    If you look at what is possible, living in those areas, you’ll find they are quite amenable to looking great. But I hear you – living in a desert is not everyone’s cup of tea.

  5. Living in Ohio water conservation is really only taken seriously as an economic issue. Water is literally everywhere and often in overabundance (like the past 4 weeks!).

    However, our potable water distribution infrastructure is old and undersized while the government operated water systems are bloated with gaggles of people with lucrative pensions. Means potable water is expensive! Saving money by moving irrigation off potable water and conserving it makes easily documented sense.

    By the way, living in the desert isn’t appealing to me either. But then (thankfully)we have freedom of movement allowing people to live where they want. There are costs to all choices, dealing with a limited water supply is a fact of life to be accepted for those in arid climates. It cannot be sustainable to have an Ohio-like landscape in Arizona. But ugly bras laying on baron dirt? . . . . . .

  6. The “ugly bra standing on dirt” was an artwork based at an event called Burning man, in the same desert plain which hosts the speed events of the fastest vehicles in the world. Typically, Burning Man has all sorts of zany, useless artworks – including remarkable vehicles – which can be used for humor purposes, as was my hopefully obvious aim there. I live in Louisville now, by the way, so your weather is basically my weather. Talk about some serious rainfall, lol!! The grass here is lush, green and growing like mad – and it often stays that way all Summer. No one landscapes here without grass, do they?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.