Using water wisely
Our 'town water' supply for drinking is a valuable commodity. Unnecessary and excessive use of this water can be costly and should be avoided to reduce overall environmental costs.
The landscape industry, through good design, wise selection of materials and good management, can help to address this situation. Water use can be minimised and waste water can be recycled.
To minimise the amount of tap water used and save on the costs of water, rainwater can be collected and stored on site for watering lawns and planting areas.
Small tanks can be purchased to collect roof water in domestic or small gardens; however water collected in a rainwater tank may not be suitable for drinking.
On larger sites earthen dams or retention basins can be designed and used to collect surface runoff. With good design, they can be both an attractive focal point and a useful resource. Is there an opportunity to conserve water by installing a rainwater tank?
Do you need a licence?
If you're thinking of building a dam, you need to contact the NSW Department of Natural Resources well in advance to check whether it will require a licence.
You also need to contact the Department if you plan to use or interfere with groundwater—the construction of a dam may interfere with groundwater or if you will be carrying out works near a creek or river.
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By collecting and directing all surface runoff into a surface holding dam, water can be pumped back up to the top of a site and reused for irrigation.
A holding dam can provide an attractive landscape feature, and the water recycling system can also be designed to remove sediment and nutrients from water before it is reused.
Minimising water use
There are many ways to minimise water use: mulching, plant selection, modifying surface characteristics and irrigation practices.
Use mulch to reduce the amount of water evaporated by the sun. Mulch helps to control weeds and is a valuable recycler of nutrients.
- Give preference to plants indigenous to the locality, as they are adapted to the local rainfall conditions and may not require additional watering.
- Lawns use more water than many other parts of a garden. Select varieties which require less water.
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Surface runoff characteristics
- Use surface materials which maximise water absorption and reduce surface runoff. The ideal surface is vegetated and mulched with a deep organic layer, helping to develop a good porous soil structure.
- Minimise the amount of hard paving as it prevents rainwater from being absorbed into the soil and reduces the water available to plants. Hard surfaces also produce more stormwater runoff, and can increase the risk that a site will cause water pollution. Consider using porous paving instead, such as dry laid bricks or gravel, to improve infiltration of water to the soil.
- Water in the evening or in the cool of the morning to reduce evaporation.
- Water lawns only when required.
- Install drip irrigation systems so that water is delivered exactly where it is required and less is wasted.
- Use hand-trigger hoses to stop wastage.
- During construction use a broom to sweep areas and collect litter rather than using a hose. This not only minimises water use, it also prevents water pollution.
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Preventing stormwater pollution
Good site planning should minimise the amount of polluted stormwater generated. Polluted stormwater (water containing soil, vegetation, organic matter or any substance) cannot legally leave your site.
Devices such as filter fences, lines of hay bales and sediment basins can be used to slow the water down to allow pollutants to drop out of the water before it leaves the site. However, it's easier to avoid polluting stormwater in the first place than it is to clean polluted stormwater. See Controlling erosion and sediment.
On small sites with a low water flow, a continuous line of hay bales, securely pegged, may prevent pollutants leaving the site
Page last updated: 27 February 2011