The Suffolk County Water Authority has issued its second emergency warning in a month. They recommend first and foremost for residents to change their patterns of irrigating lawns and yards. An NBC news story this week claims that seventy percent of our water usage on Eastern Long Island comes from yard and lawn irrigation. The fire departments on the East End of Long Island have warned that water pressure is at dangerous levels limiting their ability to respond to potential emergencies.
NBC News coverage of the water crisis in the Hamptons—a Stage One Emergency.
RECORD HEAT WAVES & DROUGHTS ARE HAMMERING THE GLOBE
Now, more than ever, we need to rethink how to preserve our resources, rather than depleting them. We need to start at home, re-imagining our yards. There are somewhere around 40 million acres of lawn in the lower 48, according to satellite imaging NASA performed in 2005.
Environmentalists have been warning us for years about the wasteful nature of lawn irrigation. That 2005 NASA study estimated that there are three times more acres of irrigated lawn in the U.S than irrigated corn. The Natural Resources Defense Council determined in a 2021 study that three trillion gallons of water (3,000,000,000,000 !!!) were used annually on lawns: That’s madness & water we don’t have. The EPA found that more than 33% of all residential water use in the U.S currently goes toward landscaping.
Given our reality of severe droughts, disappearing lakes and stressed aquifers, we need to change our lawn and yard practices. Furthermore all that watering leads to excessive run-off containing the brew of chemicals folks use on their lawns that ends up in waterways, watershed and drinking water. Yet we are committed to lawns that require daily hydrating at rates larger than agricultural fields.
WATER OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE
“Why is it important to know how much water we use to irrigate our lawns? Across the United States, water supplies are increasingly under pressure as populations grow. The water table has dropped hundreds of feet in many locations, and rivers and streams go dry for long stretches in various seasons as water is siphoned off for agriculture, industry, and individual residences. All along the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to New York, saltwater is flowing into formerly freshwater aquifers and wells because we are pumping freshwater out faster than nature can put it back. ”https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Lawn/lawn3.php
WE NEED TO CHANGE THE MODEL
When it comes to lawns, our landscaping model isn’t working. We over water, fostering shallow rooted turf, bad at retaining water. Consequently, when it does rain hard, the fertilizers, fungicides and whatever pesticides we apply to our lawns end up running down our streets into our waterways. We need to change this model.
1. Reduce your lawn size.
2. Use native plants adapted to our extremely well-drained, nutrient-poor, sandy soils.
3. Seed remaining lawn with clover, a nitrogen sink.
4. Remaining lawn: Water only once or twice a week for more resilient roots; cut to 3 or 4 inch length every week; leave clippings on lawn for fertilizer recommends Edwina von Gal of Perfect Earth.
According to the Peconic Estuary Partnership “Native plants are naturally adapted to the type of climate, soil, rainfall and availability of pollinators, like bees and butterflies and require low maintenance and do not require fertilizers.”
The Peconic Estuary Partnership will even pay you to go native! If you live within the Peconic Watershed, homeowners can earn up to $500 to offset the expense of installing green infrastructure on their properties…” www.changehampton.org