July is the Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month. This year the Irrigation Association used a Thunderclap campaign to promote Smart Irrigation Month. Since this was the first year they had a modest goal, which was exceeded by 36%. As a result of the campaign at noon on July 7th the campaign reached over 130,000 people via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Being a good water conservationist I promoted the Thunderclap in the Alliance for Water Efficiency group on LinkedIn. The comments the discussion received were surprising.
Lawns Should Be Banned
Lawns should be banned was not the exact quote, but was the general sentiment of several quotes including:
- “Smart irrigation is an oxymoron–at least in regards to lawns. Landscaping should reflect the local climate”
- “My water utility pays hefty rebates to remove both turf and irrigation zones. And people are still wasting too much water irrigating landscapes that do not belong in their arid region. #banthefrontlawn
- “Ditch the front lawn idea altogether, install drip for maintaining an aesthetic and use water for the real needs we have.”
While these comments might be considered to be a bit extreme, they do contain some truths. As Richard pointed out in his Smart Irrigation post last week, one of the first recommendations for Smart Irrigation is ”Choose grass or plants that have low water requirements and will thrive in your local climate.” My interpretation of thriving in your local climate, means it should do so with a minimal amount of supplemental irrigation.
Why We Have Lawns
While our love of the lawns may have roots in our European heritage, the truth is we have lawns because they are cheap…in the beginning. The least expensive ground cover is seed. The next least expensive ground cover is sod. Both seed and sod result in a lawn. To plant the equivalent square footage in traditional plants or shrubs is 600% more expensive than the alternative grass solution.
However, in the long run shrubs and ground cover may be the lower cost alternative as they generally require less water, less maintenance and less fertilization.
Innovation is the American Way
From moving water across states and regions to the invention of air conditioning, innovations have made it possible for people to live where nature did not intend. Can you imagine Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Antonio or Florida without air conditioning? I grew up in Atlanta, GA without air conditioning in the 1960′s and can tell you box fans only can do so much to cool you off on a hot summer night. Innovations and engineering have made it possible and enjoyable to live where people did not live 100 years ago.
Smart Irrigation is Better Than Dumb Irrigation
Reality check. People live where nature did not intend and there are a lot of dumb irrigation systems out there wasting 35% or more of the water they use. Smart irrigation will reduce the amount of water used and as the third quote stated, “use water for the real needs we have”…like creating the energy we need to run the air conditioning for homes and offices in the areas where we really should not be living.
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