Discussion: Water Conservation

Water sources vary from ground and surface water, and can be supplied by the City or from private wells for drinking, cleaning, sanitation, irrigation and more. In the Twin Cities metro area, approximately 20 percent of all treated drinking water is used outdoors, with a majority of this being used on lawns and landscapes. According to a University of Minnesota Extension and Metropolitan Council study, water use in the summer months is nearly three times greater than water use in the winter.

The City has an odd-even sprinkling ordinance to conserve water. Homes with even-numbered addresses may water their lawns before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on even-numbered dates of the week. Homes with odd-numbered addresses may water before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on odd-numbered dates.

Weather is becoming more extreme; heavy rains and long hot droughts can make managing turf a challenge. What alternatives to traditional lawns and lawn care practices have you implemented? What would you be willing to try?

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Jonathan Scoll 27 days ago

We have replaced most of our turfgrass lawn with a prairie. It takes no water whatsoever, even in the hottest part of the summer.

Prairie planting is not for everyone, however. For one thing, it is not a "drop in" solution. It takes time -- in our case, about five years -- to establish. It is also not free: we spend money every year on a specialized service (Prairie Restorations, out of Rogers) to control weeds and invasives, and to burn it (legally!) every few years. We would not recommend it for a street planting, either: it would clash with neighbors' lawns!

But for all that, we find it worthwhile, even fun, to have something that does much less harm to the environment than turfgrass, and helps, in even a small way, to make our life more sustainable. We use no lawn water or lawn chemicals, and we contribute no fertilizer runoff to the lake we live on (Indianhead Lake).

I would be happy to share more of our prairie "experience," -- pros and cons, mistakes, "lessons learned," etc., with anyone interested!

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Judith Felker at May 18, 2017 at 3:59pm CDT

Good for you, Jonathan! I understand prairie grass isn't for everyone, but where would you suggest it be established? Surely there are those who could follow your example. How would you describe a suitable candidate? Are there city-owned areas such as large parks where the city would do well to establish it?

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Judith Felker at May 18, 2017 at 4:10pm CDT

Friends of ours landscaped their front and back yards with perennials, decorative, medium-sized rocks, stone walking paths, etc. The yards were very attractive and inviting, fun to walk through, looking at all the different varieties of perennials, and totally eliminated the use of turf grass. Once established, their yards needed very little care. We're seniors and can no longer do such creative, beautiful work. We just go with whatever is natural, "weeds" and all. We never water the lawns, but we do use "slow drip" on the bushes in the Fall so they can survive the winters.

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