We are constantly reminded to save water, conserve water and use it wisely. But while it so cheap at less than 3 cents per gallon, its cost is not high enough to change consumer behavior.

Some people and groups including the Sierra Club believe water is a human right and not a commodity. It is not a true commodity in terms of trading because it does not have a trading flatform. Municipalities whose mission it is to supply water to customers are always concerned about supply because of our dependence upon surface water through runoff and groundwater resources. It is their mission to deliver sufficient, clean and drinkable water to its users.

In times of drought, we are encouraged to reduce our demand. Some municipalities restrict water usage and sometimes even will ban watering lawns. Water rates are usually based on a tiered rate increase system to discourage excessive use. But if you look at how much water actually costs, does it affect our consumer habits as does the cost of gasoline? Not in my opinion. Water is so cheap that if you actually analyzed your water bill, you would agree that raising the rates would have more of an impact on conservation and demand than the government creating a crisis as to its supply.

The only way that the cost of water will increase is a shift in the way water rights and rates charged are structured by the utilities. Owners of large aquifers with water rights may be able to form private water companies and furnish a new supply to buyers willing to pay a higher price. Until that time, the focus on using less water and not being concerned with the cost is the rule of the day. Sure, utilities tell you can save water by using less, but they don’t tell you how much money you will save because its usually pennies for any one water conservation tip.

If you do intend to adopt a water conservative strategies that will help reduce outdoor consumption in the landscape, here are some ways to achieve it:

1) Properly planning and designing your garden for the local climate — Zones should be designed based on sun exposure and orientation. Group plants based on needs for full sun, shade, etc. as well as water needs. Don’t combine cactus with perennials.

2) Use Drip Irrigation – Delivering water right to the soil surface and the root zone is much more efficient than spray heads by avoiding water waste through evaporation and wind.

3) Add Soil Moisture Sensors – probing the soil with either a manual rain sensor or one connected to a controller will allow you to adjust your irrigation settings for each zone you are testing.

4) Rain Sensors – when used with a Smart Controller they can overide the default settings in order to save water based on rainfall or regional weather data.

5) Smart Controllers have a computer that you can program making a regular controller a “smart” controller, helping reduce water usage and efficiency in delivery so that you don’t have to keep turning the controller on or off yourself.

6) High Efficiency Nozzles – spray heads can be efficient for shrubs and lawn areas by using low precipitation rate nozzles. Irrigation manufacturers are really up to speed with water conserving technology these days.

7) Permeable Pavers – Hard surfaces displace the area where rainwater could otherwise percolate into the soil. By using pavers that are made to capture water, you can either direct it back into the soil or into a RainXchange underground storage system where the water can then be pumped to use as you wish.

8) Capture and Collect Rainwater – use rain barrels or larger storage tanks so you can utilize the captured water during periods between rains. Rain gardens and Bioswales use the natural runoff from a site to irrigate the plants.

9) Limit Turf Areas – Turf requires the most water of any outdoor category. If you must have a lawn area, keep it to the minimum area to reduce the amount of heads required. If possible, convert turf areas over to low water use ground covers.

10) Manage Leaks – Drip systems can hide leaks because of the underground lines. A leak can be wasting a lot of water without you even knowing about it. Periodically, turn on the system and walk around listening for leaks as well as overly wet areas and then repair them.

11) Keep Adjusting Your Automatic Irrigation Controller Settings – People tend to overwater by programming the run times for too long a period or too frequent. You need to observe the plant’s growth and adjust the watering times accordingly. Poor system design will result in you setting watering times for the highest use plants or zone while those specific high water use plants may only make up a small percentage of all the plants on that zone. That is why it’s so important to group plants in zones (or watering stations) based on similar water usage.