People just don’t realize how conservative I am.

August 24th, 2009
August Water Usage

Update: August 2009
Worst summer ever. However, this year’s August water bill is somewhere in the middle of my highest and my lowest years, mostly because so many plants died last summer that I don’t have as much to water.

I gave up on the garden somewhere in early July when we hit 30 triple digit days. We are now at day 64 and expected to break the all time record of 69 days set in 1925. Stage 2 water restrictions go into effect today, August 24th. I have already been following those stricter restrictions, so I do not expect to be able to conserve water much more than I’m doing now.

Unlike 2005, my lawn no longer looks like dried hay. It looks like dirt.

1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 6500 gallons (07/17/2009 – 08/17/2009)
3. cost: $19.87 (water only; not wastewater charge)

Update: August 2005
Wow! This August my water consumption was low. I was in England the first two weeks of August, so used no water at all. Luckily, it was cool and rainy. These last two weeks of August should make next month’s bill skyrocket. My lawn looks like dried hay.
1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 3500 gallons (07/19/2005 – 08/18/2005)
3. cost: $9.16

In today’s bill the City of Austin included a brochure reminding us to check for leaks, especially if our consumption is above 25,000 gallons. 25,000 gallons! Hey! Save some water for the rest of us. What are you guys doing? Bathing in the stuff?

Update: September 2005
September was hotter than August and I used twice as much water. We reached our high for the year of 108 and we had 8 record-breaking highs in a row, all above 100 degrees. The rains never came this far west. I’ve lost two or three rose bushes. Most of the garden looks terrible. This is the first time I’ve ever seen nandina wilt.
September consumption: 8200 gallons (08/18/2005 – 09/19/2005)
cost: $19.92

Update: August 2004
1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 5600 gallons (07/19/2004 – 08/17/2004)
3. cost: $12.66

Original Post: August 2003
I try to be conservative in my water usage, but I don’t have any idea if I’m using more or less water than the average homeowner, or the average gardener. Sometimes I think I’m a little “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” After ten years of gardening, I have a sizeable investments in plants. It doesn’t make sense to skimp on water if I end up losing that investment.

So how much water do you use? Would you leave a comment and leave this information? I’ll do mine as an example.

1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 9,600 gallons (07/17/2003 – 08/15/2003)
3. cost: $20.82

I put the cost of just the water, not the wastewater charges which are figured separately on the Austin utility bill.


Zanthan Gardens: Our Summer Dilemma The post I wrote last year generated a lot of discussion.

di•lem•ma a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, esp. equally undesirable ones

August 9th, 2008
Our Summer Dilemma

When I asked Austin gardeners to commiserate about our miserable summer, I got an earful. Despite AJM rolling his eyes and sighing that he’s heard it all before, 2008 has been no ordinary Austin summer. We do not normally have 45 100°+ days in a year. We do not usually start our 100° temperatures in May. We do not always head into summer on the heels of a winter/spring drought. And, despite rumors to the contrary, we do not spend all summer complaining. Complaining is mostly limited to a few weeks in mid-August.

I had already planned to revive my tradition of August water bill comparison. But several comments urged me to do it now rather than later.

Bonnie @ Kiss of Sun wondered: “when you have a choice of paying to water and keep plants alive or cutting back on water and having to replace all of your landscaping because it dies, which road do you take?”

Carol @ Lost Valley Gardens made her choice, at quite a cost. “In order to keep my plants and trees alive this summer, I am averaging about 5000 gal usage per week. That means my water bill for a month is about $1000.”

Lori @ The Gardener of Good and Evil and I think a lot alike. It’s not just the money, it’s the time spent trying to pull the plants through, knowing that we have at least another month, the hottest month, to go. Lori says, “I’m so friggin’ sick of watering, and it would be so much less time-consuming if I just could focus on the big trees and roses and screw all the filler. Everything else still looks like crap anyway. I’d love to compare water bills with other Austin gardeners to see where I fall on the scale. I was just under $100 last month, which I thought was a lot, but apparently not.”

After a pleasant introduction to gardening in the 1990s, I struggled through 2000 and 2006. Determined not to let summer beat me down this year, I started off quite strong applying the lessons I learned after letting my garden succumb to the drought of 2006. In May, I watered early and often. I stuck with it through the hottest June in history. By July 4th (when it normally begins to get hot), my garden already looked like it had been through August.

At that point, I realized that plants which wilt if I’m out over a weekend, would never survive my absence for a week in August. So, like Lori, I decided to “screw all the filler”. I stopped watering everything except the largest perennials I had which had already survived 2006 and showed their worthiness.

Perhaps, because I’m desert born and bred, I’ve always been extremely conservative with my water. When we remodeled our kitchen a couple of years ago, we bought a water saving dishwasher (which uses about 1/4 of the water we used when we washed dishes by hand) and a water saving washing machine. Despite the pond (which requires topping up frequently as it is broad and shallow) and not letting the back lawn die completely, my latest water bill was low, I think–but not much different than other summers. I actually use more water in a dry winter because that’s when I’m growing my annuals, both in the meadow and in the vegetable garden.

So, the envelope please…

From June 17 – July 18 (daily temps in the 100s), we two adults consumed 5,500 gallons of water at a cost of $15.72.

Yep, that’s it. Less than the price of a rose bush. So, to answer Bonnie’s question, I take the path of conserving water at the expense of the landscape. I’ve just been down this dusty summer road once too many times. I’m not going to keep pouring water on plants that can’t survive our summers nor am I going to keep replacing them. Something is going to change.

I’m not willing to pay $1000 a month for water like Carol, or even $100 a month like Lori. And it’s not just about money. I’m not willing to consume huge amounts of water at the expense of my neighbors who rely on wells for theirs. We are draining our lakes and aquifer at an alarming rate. (And I don’t mean just us gardeners because lawn-bound surbanites and people with swimming pools share the responsibility.)

But Bob @ Draco Gardens, spoke to my heart about the seriousness of our dilemma. “I feel your pain, especially about the water. I just spent $3740 to replace the pump in my well because the water table had dropped 240′.” Read Bob’s story, Yikes! No water.

Your Turn
How much did you consume and what did it cost you? I’m also interested in knowing how much supplemental water gardens require in those parts of the country (and world) where temperatures are more pleasant. So, if you could include where you live and what the average high temperature was for the period of usage, I’d be very interested.