Australian Study: Some Water-saving Ideas Are Urban Myths

Some water saving ideas could actually be urban myths that are wasting thousands of liters each day, according to an Australian study of outdoor water use.

The project, conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures, is headed by Associate Professor Basant Maheshwari from the University of Western Sydney.

"Despite a perception of significant water use outside the house, no one had comprehensively monitored and analyzed the outdoor watering practices of Australians. Without this vital information, we don't know if water saving strategies like automated watering systems and smaller gardens are effective," Maheshwari said.

The study found a lush green lawn may not always be the biggest water guzzler in the yard; instead it's the plants in the garden beds.

"It was a surprise to find two thirds of the total irrigation water used in the home goes on the garden, but it covers only half the total area of the yard," Maheshwari said. "This suggests garden areas are substantial water users and need to be targeted for improved watering practices to make a significant decrease in our water consumption."

The study also found water-wise small gardens could be an urban myth.

"Most people don't have a clear understanding of the water needs of their gardens, with plants receiving on average three times the water they can actually use," Maheshwari said.

Many households install automatic watering systems believing it will deliver water to plants more effectively and efficiently -- saving them time and water -- but the study found this also could be wasting thousands of liters.

"Many watering systems examined in the study are poorly designed, installed and are not maintained," Maheshwari said.

Additional information about the study can be downloaded at http://www.irrigationfutures.org.au/news.asp?catID=9&ID=270.

Basant Maheshwari can be contacted at http://pubapps.uws.edu.au/teldir/personprocess.php?4646.

For a definition of liter (or litre) and conversion information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litre.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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