New Apartment Developments Can Raise the Bar for Future Water Conservation

As new apartment construction volume continues to increase and many areas of the U.S. are experiencing drought conditions, the need for water conservation is more critical than ever.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the drought is going to persist and expand in California, the Southwest, and the southern Plains due to dry and warm conditions. According to recent news reports, Southern California would have to rain every day for months to get back to normal reserves. Also, some cities in Texas are limiting lawn watering to twice a month.

And it’s not just the U.S. Other parts of the world are getting edgy about low water supplies, even to a point of coming to blows. On the western outskirts of Mexico City in May, residents of a village and police clashed over a water spring in an area where water is growing scarce. In Sao Paulo, a war of words over water rationing on the eve of the World Cup is under way between poor neighborhoods and wealthy ones during Brazil’s worst drought in 80 years.

Properties Embrace New Landscaping Strategies

Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail and Water Armageddon will never happen. There are opportunities to do our fair share for water conservation, and new properties that are popping up across the countryside can be on the leading edge by adopting new landscape strategies.

Long before the first resident moves in, apartment properties can install native landscapes that won’t require the thousands and thousands of gallons of water that lawns usually require. Here’s a startling fact: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 30 percent (or 7.8 billion gallons) of the water consumed every day in the U.S. is used outdoors, with the majority of that going to irrigation.

Think about what kind of statement the apartment industry can make by going beyond today’s acceptable practices of just installing low-flow water fixtures inside buildings and creating new landscapes with native plants. By planting native landscaping, an apartment community could reduce watering demands by up to 66 percent.

What is Native Landscaping?

Native landscaping is the concept of planting species that are natural to their locale and survive off the conditions that Mother Nature provides. Native plants adapt to the sun, rain, and soil in the area, so they tend to do better. They don’t require fertilizers, and are more resistant to pests and disease. Check out this native plant list to see what works in your area. You might be surprised to learn what grows naturally in your region.

Once a selection of native plants has been made, be sure to group plants together based on their watering needs. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a flowering shrub that needs moist soil next to a dry cactus or succulent. By doing this you avoid over- and under-watering and save.

Use the Proper Water Controllers for Sustaining Native Landscapes

Every new landscape needs water to get started, and that is where irrigation controllers come into play. A controller can be installed to turn on irrigation when it’s least likely to evaporate before hitting the ground, usually between 4 -7 a.m., when the air is cool, wind is calm, and sun isn’t too hot yet.

One step above that is a WaterSense® certified controller, which turns on and off based on the weather and current conditions.

Another option to consider is drip irrigation. A soaker hose placed along the roots of plants uses less water because of lower evaporation rates. Of course, with any type of irrigation, drip irrigation systems need to be monitored to ensure they don’t over water.

Once the landscape is established, Mother Nature will largely do the rest. And the property owner will not only reap the benefits of a lower water bill but also take pride in making a very sustainable contribution.

 

(Image source: Jefferson at One Scottsdale)

 


Associate Manager of Sustainability, HD Supply

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Kelly Thompson is the Associate Manager of Sustainability at HD Supply Facilities Maintenance where she manages the ideallygreenSM initiative, which encompasses over 2,800 environmentally preferable parts. She is LEED® Green Associate accredited and is the San Diego Green Building Council’s Marketing Committee Chair. Kelly has participated in various environmental projects such as carbon footprinting, the LEED building certification process, and corporate social responsibility reporting.

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