Limit or eliminate lawns – Up to 50% of water used to water lawns can be lost to evaporation, run off, overspray and overwatering.  Take care to only water them as much as they need (consider timers and rain shut-off devices). EPA’s Water Sense has good information on proper watering.  Limit turf grass to sunny or lightly shaded areas that are well-drained, and flat or lightly sloping. For new lawn, use drought-tolerant, native ground covers for shaded and sloping areas of your garden, and don’t use sod. In Western Washington, drought tolerant turf grasses can survive all but the driest summers without water. Wear your brown lawn as a badge of water conserving honor. It’ll green up again in the Fall, especially if you have amended the soils when establishing the lawn in the first place. 
Native and drought tolerant plants can make a beautiful alternative to unused turf areas in your yard. WSU Cooperative Extension has many resources to assist home gardeners with landscaping using native plants.  This can eliminate the need for watering once plants are established. In addition, these plants tolerate our low-nutrient soils, pests and diseases without the need for fertilizers and pesticides. 
Rainwater Harvesting – You can meet some of your watering needs by harvesting the rainwater that falls on your roof, and, in many locations, is piped away to the storm drains. Create rain gardens that keep water from your downspouts away from your home’s foundation, and allow it to infiltrate naturally.  Collecting rainwater to use on your landscape can help you save water. 
Rain barrels can provide additional water savings. Around Puget Sound, we average only about 2” of rain during July and August. However, for each 1” rain event, a 1,400 square foot roof will collect about 210 gallons of water, filling four 50-gallon rain barrels. Cisterns (above or below ground water storage tanks) can store enough water from the spring rainfall to see you right through the summer, but they require space, pumps and careful maintenance. 
Mulch exposed soils – In beds that are not densely planted, use 2” of mulch annually. Non-woody mulches, compost, cut grass clippings, or leaves are best for annuals. Woody mulches such as wood chips work best with perennials.  Group plants with similar water requirements, so you can easily water only those plants that need it.

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