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Using Water Wisely in the Landscape. Ronald C. Smith, Ph.D. North Dakota State University Extension Horticulturist & Turfgrass Specialist. Created by Andrea Carlson. There are currently about 6.3 billion people living on the earth. This equates to 109 people per square mile.

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using water wisely in the landscape

Using Water Wisely in the Landscape

Ronald C. Smith, Ph.D.

North Dakota State University

Extension Horticulturist & Turfgrass Specialist

Created by Andrea Carlson


There are currently about 6.3 billion people living on the earth.

This equates to 109 people per square mile.

(Land area = 57.9 million miles)

It is estimated that by 2040, the world population will be about 10 billion people, or about 173 people per square mile.


How much water is consumed by each person on the planet?

About 170,000 gallons per person.

For every gallon of water an individual drinks, he or she consumes more than 1,000 gallons indirectly through things such as the water used for irrigating the food that person eats, for manufacturing the products that person buys, and even watering his or her lawn.


If everyone on Earth lived like the average Canadian or American, we would need at least 3 such planets to live sustainably.

Our Ecological Footprint, M. Wackernagel, W. Rees

water usage population
Water Usage & Population
  • Present population: 6.3 billion
  • 2030 population estimate: 8 billion
  • ½ billion (8%) experience moderate-severe water shortages
  • China (22% world’s population):

Receives 7% WFW supply

water usage population6
Water Usage & Population
  • 1900-Present:
    • World population has doubled
    • Per capita water use has increased 8-fold
  • Egypt's Nile, India’s Ganges, China’s Yellow & the Colorado in the U.S. nearly run dry before their waters reach the ocean
facts about water use
Facts about Water Use
  • Agriculture:
    • To produce 1 gallon of milk, a dairy cow must drink 4 gallons of water
    • To produce 1 pound of beef, about 2,500 gallons of water is needed
    • It takes 8 gallons of water to grow a tomato
  • Domestic:
    • A typical U.S. toilet uses between 3.5-7 gallons per flush, low-flow toilets use 1.6 gallons or even less
facts about water use8
Facts about Water Use
  • Electric Power:
    • 4,000 gallons of water produces 1 kilowatt-hour of hydroelectric power-enough to light a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours
  • Industry:
    • 300 million gallons of water are needed to produce a single day’s supply of U.S. newsprint
  • Cost & Conservation:
    • 1 penny buys 160 eight-ounce glasses of water in a typical U.S. community
facts about water
Facts about Water
  • Groundwater is the source of more than 50% of U.S. drinking water; in rural areas about 95%
  • The 1972 Clean Water Act’s goal that all U.S. waters be fishable and swimmable by 1983 remains unmet
facts about water10
Facts about Water
  • Airborne pollutants may travel hundreds of miles before falling on a body of water. Sulfur dioxide reacts with other air pollutants & rain to form sulfuric acid, which can kill plankton & fish
  • States are responsible for monitoring & enforcing U.S. water-quality standards. Levels & methods of data collection vary widely, leading to a lack of consistent & comparable data. Consequently, pollution cannot be accurately mapped nationwide
population pressure on water
Population Pressure on Water

Information for Table obtained from Rain Bird


Acre-Inch of Water:The amount of water to cover 1-acre of land, 1-inch deep:

=27,152 Gallons of Water

Acre-Foot of Water:The amount of water to cover 1-acre of land, 1-foot deep:

=325,824 Gallons of Water

the hydrologic cycle
The Hydrologic Cycle

Vapor cools forming clouds

  • Precipitation generally equals amount of water lost to evaporation & transpiration
  • There is a potential annual net gain of approximately 9,000 cubic miles of water on land every year
  • The paradoxical reality remains– water is not increased, it is only recycled


falls on land

& water


from land

& water

Transpiration from


the earth s water
The Earth’s Water
  • Universally agreed, water is a limited but naturally recycling resource.
  • Human demand for water has risen at remarkable rates due to increasing population & water use.
  • Reducing use for consumption, 1 % of available water is being spoiled by various forms of pollution.

Water Right;

water crisis
Water Crisis
  • Problems & solutions associated with increasing population, pollution, & a diminishing supply of usable water cannot be viewed in isolation.
  • Contributions to the potential for a global water crisis:
    • Industrialization
    • Urbanization
    • Economic expansion
    • Land use & development
    • Preservation

Water Right;

A way to raise water productivity is to shift to more water-efficient crops; the higher the yield, the more productive the water use.
  • Over the last 50 years, world irrigated land has tripled: 90 million acres in 1950 to 270 million acres in 2000
  • Irrigation-uses account for 70% of water being diverted from rivers or pumped from underground
  • Korea uses virtually all of its available water
  • Battle for Water: Industry often pays 50-100x more for water than farmers
the options
Water Re-pricing

Water Re-use


Water Transfers & Improvement to Water Delivery Systems

Alternative Plant Selections (Xeriscape)

Conservation: Efficient Irrigation

The Options
options to address water scarcity
Options to Address Water Scarcity

Information for Table obtained from Rain Bird

options to address water scarcity21
Options to Address Water Scarcity

Information for Table obtained from Rain Bird

irrigation methods in use around the world
Irrigation Methods in Use Around the World
  • Flood-Furrow Surface Irrigation
    • Primarily in agricultural systems
    • Developing countries
  • Golf Courses
    • 17,000+
    • Over 200/year being added = 2.7 B/G/D in U.S.
  • Landscape Irrigation
    • Sprinkler
    • Drip
proper irrigation design installation maintenance
Proper Irrigation Design, Installation, Maintenance
  • Design/divide by zones
  • Use licensed Professionals
  • Employ The Use of Water-Conserving Products
    • Multiple start times; multiple independent programs
    • Water budget
    • Rain delay
    • Cycle + soak
    • ET programming
proper irrigation design installation maintenance24
Proper Irrigation Design, Installation, Maintenance
  • Automatic shut-off device
    • All automatic controllers:
    • Required in TX, MN, CT, NH, NY, & RI
  • Low-volume irrigation, when possible
    • Drip, micro, bubblers
    • Use pressure-regulating devices
    • Use pumps to boost pressure
    • Use high efficiency nozzles for uniform coverage
installation of systems
Installation of Systems
  • Become/hire certified irrigation contractor
  • Certified by the Irrigation Association (IA)
  • Must be able to demonstrate all aspects of design, installation, maintenance & repair of irrigation systems used in turf and landscape situations
    • Required in New Jersey & Connecticut
proper maintenance
Proper Maintenance
  • Setting systems to operate in early AM hours
  • Routine inspections of system
  • Adjust watering schedules to reflect seasonal changes
  • Adjust watering schedules when plants mature or are changed
how to water
How to Water
  • In-ground systems
    • Professional design & installation
    • Routine adjustments & regular maintenance to be most effective/efficient
    • Greatest mistake: “Set it & forget it" philosophy
    • Heads-out-of-alignment: Apply water to the sidewalk, street or house-siding, rather than to desired area
  • Hose-end sprinklers
    • Range in complexity, cost, & durability
    • Highly portable
    • Can provide uniform/consistent coverage when properly placed & maintained

Water Right;

drip irrigation
Drip Irrigation
  • Most efficient of irrigation systems, reducing water use 30-70%
  • Provides steady stream of water, raising yields 20-90%
  • In past, used only for high-value crops; now low-cost systems are designed for small farms
  • Critical time for all veggie crops: germination & fruit development; keep soil uniformly moist

Eco-Economy; L. Brown

salt management
Salt Management
  • Drainage
    • Low permeability restricts flow “out the bottom”
    • Battle between moving sufficient salts out of root zone & evapotranspiration bringing salts back up to surface
  • Irrigation
    • Increases of saline irrigation water & decreases of seasonal rainfalls lead to small window of salt management
    • Tensiometers (moisture blocks) monitor soil water at different depths
    • Other mobile chemicals can move with water also

SD EXT. 904

salt management30
Salt Management
  • Irrigation
    • Salts in root zone are dynamic & tend to change with climatic changes
    • Well-drained soils:
      • Wet periods tend to push salts further down in root zone
      • Drier periods bring salts toward surface
    • Poorly-drained soils:
      • Wet periods tend to bring water table & salts closer to surface

SD EXT. 904

salt management31
Salt Management
  • Irrigation
    • Water considered good for irrigation:

810 micromhos/cm electrical conductivity (600 milligrams/liter) would have 0.82 tons of salt for every acre-foot of water

    • The more soluble salts cause greater injury/stress
      • Sodium sulfate (NaSO4)
      • Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3)
      • Sodium chloride (MgCl2)
    • The less soluble salts cause less injury/stress
      • Calcium sulfate (CaSO4)
      • Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4)
      • Calcium carbonate (CaCO3)

SD EXT. 904

reducing salt stress in the garden
Reducing Salt Stress in the Garden
  • Test soil & water salinity
  • Mulch around base of garden crops
    • Inorganic Mulches
      • No nutritional value
      • Does not help soil structure
      • Uses resources to make them
      • Have to dispose of materials
    • Organic Mulches
      • Add nutrients
      • Contribute to soil structure
  • Develop a lower salt water source, if available
    • If 1+ water source with different salt loads, use better quality water on sensitive crops & poorer quality on tolerant crops

SD EXT. 904

steps toward water conservation
Steps Toward Water Conservation
  • Education of professionals
  • Education of consumers, beginning in elementary school
  • Incentives ($) for water-efficient systems
  • Evaluate landscape planning
    • Retro for more drought-tolerant plantings
    • Better design/maintenance for water efficiency
  • The Intelligent Use of Water - Irrigation For a Growing World, RainBird Corporation
food for thought
Food for Thought:

Average water supply per person will fall by 1/3 in 20 years.

food for thought35
Food for Thought:
  • Middle Eastern countries already in water-crisis.
  • Belgium: Worst water—industrial pollution & water treatment
  • Canada/New Zealand: Best water quality & quantity
food for thought36
Food for Thought
  • There is as much water today as there was 3 billion years ago
  • Water is the only natural substance that can exist in all 3 states: Solid, Liquid, Gas
  • If all the water being held in the atmosphere were dumped in the form of rain, the entire surface of earth would be covered with 1” of water

SD EXT. 904

food for thought37
Food for Thought
  • Average American uses 2 gallons of water/day to brush teeth
  • Average 10-minute showers Use 55 gallons of water
  • Automatic dishwashers actually save water
    • 9 to 12 gallons/load
    • 20 Gallons for same load by hand
final food for thought
39,000 gallons of water needed to produce average domestic auto

300 million gallons of water to produce American newspapers for one day

An 8-ounce glass of water can be refilled 15,000 times for cost of a 6-pack of soda

Final Food for Thought