Water Conservation

Have a beautiful garden and conserve water


A WaterWise gardener will save money

Gardens are big users of domestic water. By applying WaterWise principles to our gardens, we may cut outdoor water use by up to 50%, yet maintain green, pleasant and rewarding gardens. And there are other benefits!


A WaterWise garden means low maintenance

With smaller lawn areas, clever use of mulching and landscaping and a well designed irrigation system, WaterWise gardens are a lot less work than conventional gardens.


A WaterWise garden is more natural and helps to save our environment:

  • Reduces use of fertilisers and chemicals.
  • Demands less water.
  • Reduses water wasted as run-off
  • Minimises effects on water tables and soil salinity.
  • Helps delay the need for further borefields, dams and pipelines.

Plan before you plant

A garden is best planned in zones according to usage: for ornamental, recreation or service areas. Water requirements can vary between zones. The micro climate in various parts of a garden will vary according to sun and wind direction, and exposure to rain and frost. While size, shape, function and appearance of plants and bushes are important, so too are the way the plants fit into the local environment, and what resources and care will be needed for their maintenance.



garden and houseImprove your garden beds to minimise water usage

Australian soil generally lacks sufficient organic matter to hold enough water or nutrients for plants. In parts of your garden where you may decide to grow plants other than natives, adding organic matter to the soil will bring many benefits. It will:

  • improve plant growth;
  • reduce fertiliser use;
  • reduce water use; and
  • decrease garden maintenance.
    Organic matter can be added by:
  • making compost from household and garden waste;
  • buying it from a garden supplier in various forms, including peat and manure.
    Additives such as wetting agents and waterstoring polymers will also help the soil to use water more effectively.

Mulch everything

The Australian climate is one of the harshest. Soil exposed bare to the sun will rapidly lose water and nutrients. Applying a thick layer of mulch (50-75mm or more) to garden beds will help to:

  • cut evaporation loss up to 70%;
  • encourage plant development;
  • dsicourage weed growth; and
  • prevent soil erosion.

Even gravel can be used as mulch, but organic mulches such as woodchips and coarsely-shredded brush tend to keep the ground cooler. They also break down over time to feed the soil and plants. Mulch needs toppig up. Keep it clear of trunks and stems.

Water wisely where it's needed

Micro-irrigation is the most efficient means of watering a garden, delivering only as much water to each plant or area as needed. Multi-zone timers and a variety of soakers, dripper and spray heads mean that adjustments can be made for seasonal changes. Seek information on these systems, which need not be expensive to install. The water savings from a properly-designed system are significant. With any watering method, avoid overspray onto paved areas.

Enjoy the lawn, but ...

Lawns have a special place in most people's ideas of a garden, espially for children and quiet relaxation. However, they require more water than other garden areas and offer the most scope for water saving. In low-rainfall areas, we can plan carefully to enjoy a lawn by having less of it, in the most ueful place, and by not planting lawn just for 'fill-in' covers or apearances. Hardy groundcovers are one alternative; paving and artificial turf for hard play are others. Types of grass can be planted which have low water needs, and local advice should be obtained on grass selection, establishment and maintenance. But if you can do without a lawn altogether, that will really save water - and work.

  • Water only when it's needed, no more than twice a week.
  • Use a timer with sprinklers. A forgotten sprinkler wastes 1,000 litres per hour.
  • Put an ice cream container on the lawn and turn on the sprinkler. When the water inside is 10mm deep, that's enough. Adjust the timer to suit.

Grow the right plants

When designing or changing your garden, go along with nature by choosing plants which are most likely to thrive in the local climate with low water use. You may not have to do without other favourites altogether - these can be grouped to share similar watering patterns, independent from the rest of the irrigation system. Perhaps put them where you will see them most. Look for published lists of plants with low water requirements, and seek local expert advice.

You may want to contact a botanic garden in your region for appropriate local advise or get in contact with one of the following organisations:

  • State Flora
    State Flora stock many arid zone native species, have exprienced staff and excellent fact sheets and brochures
    Ph (08) 8278 7777 or www.stateflora.com.au
  • The Australian Plants Society
    Formerly the 'Society for Growing Australian Plants', this organisation has an extensive network with regional groups throughout Australia for advice approriate to your area.
    Ph (08) 8264 0270 or www.australianplantssa.asn.au

wheelbarrowKeep it going

Simple maintenance procedures will keep water use down:

  • use only slow-release fertilisers and don't overdo them, or high plant growth will result in more water use and nutrients flowing into ground water;
  • check taps, hoses and sprinkler systems for leaks, then fix them properly;
  • change your watering rates with the seasons - only water every second day in summer, every third or fourth day in spring or autumn. Turn off automatic watering systems when it rains.
  • Prune excess growth to reduce water needs.

Acknowledgement: Text and images from the 'WMC Limited WaterWise program'.

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© 2012 Friends of the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden