Urban Garden Denver Blog

Watering guilt

I watered today — running the sprinkler for 1/2 hour in the front yard and another 1/2 hour in the back yard. I decided to do this after consulting the forecast and seeing no moisture in the forecast for the week. This is March, our “snowiest” month, except when it isn’t. And I felt guilty about watering, knowing that in Colorado our water is precious and we must do all we can to conserve. Yet my garden is based on very small patches of lawn and many ground covers and perennials that have low water needs. I replaced a large proportion of lawn with low-water plants in the last drought. Should I feel guilty for watering?

After I watered, I went to the grocery store to do my shopping for the week. There was a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot: “No Farms, No Food.” In Colorado our urban uses of water (landscaping, car washes, flushing, washing) compete with rural uses of water (agriculture) and practically every week there is some water issue in the news. But I wonder if the amount that I save on water goes to a farmer, or does it just go to a new tract of homes in the suburbs, with lawns bigger than mine. Should I feel guilty for watering?

I was curious about my water usage and found a handy graph available on DenverWater.org. Our average water use in the winter is 2000 gallons a month (2 people). It bumps up when the kids are home with their suitcases full of dirty laundry (and I do let them take showers). Our highest summer usage is 8000 gallons a month. With the mountains full of snow this year, our reservoirs will be full and we won’t likely have enforced conservation, but I am going to try to live by the Denver Water motto “Use only what you need.” But how much do I really need?

This spring I will water carefully to get my plants started well, since there isn’t any moisture in the soil, but I am going to watch my consumption and try to stay under 8000 gallons — I’ll report my monthly usage here to keep me honest.

Meanwhile, I am ordering a few more xeric (water-wise) perennials to fill in some spots. They will need to be watered in their first year. And I’ll explore more water topics in this blog over the new few months — sprinkler systems versus hoses, turf choices, and capturing rain water (not legal in Colorado). And I’ll hope for snow or rain.

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