An American family can use 400 gallons of water per day - and about 30 percent of that is used outdoors.
In the warmer months, much of that water is used on lawns and gardens. In fact, landscape irrigation accounts for nearly a third of all residential water use - 7 billion gallons per day, the U.S. EPA says.
For anyone who pays a water bill, those numbers can be frightening. However, agriculture experts say there are many ways to use less water - making the environment a little happier and wallets a little fuller this summer.
Get the right tools
Watering tools can make a difference in the amount of water consumed, says Lyndsay Ploehn, an associate educator at Purdue University Cooperative Extension.
"Try using soaker hoses on your garden and landscape beds instead of over-head sprinklers," she said. "Soaker hoses or drip irrigation allow the gardener to place the water directly next to the plant they desire to water - thus allowing them to water more efficiently."
Use drip irrigation for hanging plants as well, she said, and choose self-watering containers for patio plants.
Rain barrels are another option, says Donna Stuckert, public education coordinator at Recycling Waste Reduction District of Porter County.
"Rain barrels harvest rain water to water plants and help reduce water consumption," she said. "Rain water is free, and just plain better to use because it doesn't have chlorine and fluoride, so it's more beneficial to plants."
Location, location, location
Plant flower beds where water accumulates - often called a rain garden.
If a yard is dry and sunny, don't plant perennials that require a lot of water.
"Always remember to plant the right plant in the right place," Ploehn said.
Other plants thrive in environments that require less water. For example, plant succulents in containers, Ploehn says.
"They are the new plant craze and require a lot less watering, while still offering color, texture and interest to your garden," she says.
It's easy to overwater a lawn in an attempt to fix a few brown spots, says Russ Nicholson, a senior agronomist for Pennington Seed.
Overwatering can cause numerous problems, he says, including shallow root systems, reduced drought tolerance, excessive growth and increased disease, weed or insect infestations.
"A lawn does not need water until the color falls by 50 percent, at which time only one inch of water should be added," Nicholson said.
Instead of watering in the middle of the day when wind and temperatures are the hottest, it's best to water in the morning from 4 to 8 a.m. Nicholson says this prevents unnecessary water loss through evaporation.
"Along with limiting evaporation, this timing allows plants to retain moisture, but still dry in enough time to prevent diseases that are more likely to develop in wet lawns," he said.
A water-efficient landscape starts with water-efficient, healthy plants, Nicholson says.
"By utilizing plants that require less water, landscapes are more resilient during periods of drought and easier to maintain - resulting in reduced time, energy and resources," he said.
Perennials and woody ornamentals will require less water over time than a garden full of annuals, Ploehn said.
Native plants also tend to be more water-efficient, along with being more resistant to problems such as disease and insects, Nicholson said.
"Northwest Indiana tends to fall either within the 5b or 6a hardiness zone," he said. "These zones are used to determine what plant species will thrive in a given location."
Ploehn adds to allow cool season turf to go dormant in high heat instead of watering frequently to keep it green all summer.
"It will be lush and green again in the fall when the temperature drops back down," Ploehn said.