August 9th, 2008
Our Summer Dilemma

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

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.

by M Sinclair Stevens

28 Responses to post “Our Summer Dilemma”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Reporting for Indianapolis, my bill for June was estimated at 3,000 gallons used. The average HIGH temp was 82.8 F, the overall average temp was 73.2 F. In June, we got a lot of rain… officially 8 inches wherever they measured it, but I measured more here and did no extra watering. Subtracting out the sewer charges they tack on, I was charged $15.49 for this water.

    In July, I think the average high temp was 83.8 F. My bill is still estimated, this time at 6,000 gals, for $22.77. I don’t think I used that much, and they’d better come out and read my meter before the next bill!

    I am amazed at how little water you used! Good for you…

  2. From Bob Pool:

    I’m glad you have written about this. There are certainly lessons to be learned here.
    One is to use natives as much as possible. I am a member of the Williamson Co. native plant society and have learned so much about natives and their value in landscaping. They are the plants that look the best in my garden now.
    Second is that rain water collection should be seriously looked at to see if a persons particular situation could use it. It just isn’t viable for every one as you have to go big for it to be worth while. I have a 5000 gal. tank now but after that last well bill I am certainly looking at going bigger.

  3. From our friend Ben in Pennsylvania:

    By God’s grace, I’m on a well here at Hawk’s Haven, so I don’t have a monthly water bill. I do, however, have to worry about the well running dry in hot, dry summers, and I have to haul water to all my gardens and deck plants via half-gallon milk jugs. You can bet I have rain barrels around here!!! Just wish I could afford to have a second well put in out back just for the gardens.

  4. From Julie:

    Dear MSS,

    in Austin not far from you–
    June/27-July/30 — 3,300 gallons, cost $10.37

    That’s with no sprinklers or even drip lines here, just minimal handwatering: some potted things, three smallish trees, and intermittent splashing of sad beds. Nothing on lawn (“lawn”?).

    It does seem pretty crazy with gas prices what they are that, water, so much more precious, is nearly a giveaway. I don’t like the option so many seem to be taking, of gravel everywhere — looks like a parking lot or industrial zone, but dead grass and beds of curling hackberries sprouts are gruesome. I’m listening for advice and like what Bob Pool is saying.

    Thanks for sharing the stats, Julie. You know how I love them. Sounds like we’ve taken the same path and said farewell to the lawn and all but a few select plants until fall. You have a huge lot and I’m impressed at how conservative you’ve been. I’m looking forward to responses from those in the suburbs where they are required by their neighborhood association to keep their lawns green. And, from all the Austin garden bloggers and Master Gardeners who haven’t thrown in the trowel this summer. — mss

  5. From Katie:

    I am floored at the comments here – wow! $1000 a month for water? I’ve never heard of that before! But I can certainly understand the quandary of paying now for water vs. paying later to replace landscape plants.

    And I thought our heat was bad here in Northern Cal.

    We have a water meter installed, but stupidly enough, our local municipality DOES NOT METER WATER. So people water their lawns for hours, letting the “free” water run down in the storm drains. I for one can’t wait to be metered. Even if our bill goes up, all of those idiots that water too much (I wouldn’t consider them gardeners by any stretch of the imagination) will wise up and use water in more efficient ways.

    One thing to note about Carol’s $1,000…she is running a family farm and nursery. So she has a big investment she HAS to protect. I’m surprised to hear from you that in dry, dry, California that there still exist municipalities that don’t meter their water. It’s sad that people will waste (water, oil, anything) until they are forced to pay for it. Where’s the community spirit? Where’s our ability to follow right reason and monitor ourselves? — mss

  6. From Val, Austin:

    I garden at Sunshine Community Gardens (just north of 45th on Lamar), and last month’s water bill (for the whole garden) was $2700.

    I’ve been triaging, so my plot is only about half-planted right now.

    Thanks for sharing, Val. Looking at your website, I see that the Sunshine Community Gardens has over 150 plot on four acres. I don’t know if every plot is in use right now but assuming it is, that works out to $18 a plot. The plots are 20 x 20 feet (400 square feet). Are the plots on drip irrigation or are they watered by their renters? Are they all raised bed plots? — mss

  7. From Dee:

    I don’t know how much better my climate is in a “normal” year, MSS, but we’ve only had over 100 degree temps in Oklahoma for August. They did last the first two week so August, but we got a break today. I can’t speak to water bills because we’re on a well, and it has never run dry (fingers crossed) even in terrible drought years. I feel so badly for you all this year. I will say this: native plants look great when the heat pours on.~~Dee

  8. From Frances:

    The report from Tennessee was surprising to me. I usually check the total for our bill, which includes all utilities run by a utility board. We are part of the TVA electric system which is supposed to make our electricity cheaper. As for the water portion, our usage last year was highest in August with 92 units costing $23.10, our bill shows the usuage for the year before was 33 units. That makes me think this was a correction of some kind for a misread meter. Last month this year the water usage was 59 units costing $17.33. That includes extra hand watering of containers and newly planteds. No water on the small lawn or most of the yard. None in front. Two years of drought are showing on all trees, shrubs and ground covers. Our temps this summer have been above average, high 80’s, some 90’s. We are 8 inches below normal rainfall this year, 12 inches below at the end of last year. While our water is cheap, we live in the city and are on the sewer system, which doubles the water usage to calculate that bill. When we water the garden, it is not going into the sewer but we are charged that way for it. Our neighbors have a seperate meter and spigot for their garden, it saves them alot. I do hope your summer ends soon. Our temps are cooler and the humidity has dropped, it feels more like fall here with night temps around 60. Come on fall!

    Austinites pay separately for wastewater usage, too. The city averages the three lowest months in the winter (when we shouldn’t be watering lawns) to guestimate our wastewater usage. I get dinged for this because my I do most of my watering in the winter when I’m trying to establish newly planted bushes and trees, and because the meadow is made up of over-wintering annuals. My separate wastewater charge was higher than my water charge; $19.92 for 2,900 gallons. — mss

  9. From Rachel from Austin:

    We used 3,700 gallons of water this past month, which was billed for $11.34. This was approximately 300 gallons more than we used last year. Granted, I think our wet summer had about ended by August last year, but needless to say, we try to be conscientious about our water usage.

    Our grass is extra-crispy this year, and I’ve about given up on a lot of the perennials I planted this past year. Really, only the veggies and our new fruit trees get watered with any regularity, even with our new drip irrigation system.

  10. From Leslie - Austin, TX:

    We’re in Austin. Our latest water bill had a total consumption of 24,400 gallons, the bill was $121.02 for water. We live in the suburbs and have to keep our lawn green. This year we put in a lot of native planting beds. We are watering the lawn & plants one day a week, 30 minutes per station with the inground sprinkler system.

  11. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Interesting discussion. I haven’t thrown in the trowel and am still watering my drought-tolerant though currently stressed garden because I want it to look good, not just survive (or not). We have no lawn except for the little strip of Zoysia grass, and no pool…yet. We do have a family of four, which means more showers, laundry, and dish-washing. I’m not willing to get into a numbers contest here, but I believe our water usage is reasonably moderate—not as admirably low as yours and Julie’s but not as high as others who may be establishing new gardens, supporting a large lawn, or planting thirsty exotics.

    I agree that water is practically given away as a resource, and most of us can and should conserve more. And while Austin’s watering restrictions are personally difficult to follow without a sprinkler or drip-irrigation system, they are necessary to educate residents about their water consumption.

    I’m disappointed that you won’t share your numbers. The point is not to see who uses the least. This isn’t a contest. It’s about sharing information so that we can make informed choices about gardening in central Texas. I absolutely encourage people to factor in the number of people in the house, and the size of the garden, whether there is a pond or a pool, and whatever else might contribute to water usage (such as issues with homeowners associations that require green lawns–an issue that neither Julie or I have). You have a small lot, no lawn, a focus on native plants and a garden that’s won acclaim. Can we replicate your success–if so, at what cost? — mss

  12. From Rachel from Austin:

    Addendum to my comment #9 up there: it occurs to me that in the past year, we changed out our toilets and shower heads to low-flow through the Austin city program. That cut down our water usage quite a bit. So in effect, we’re watering more than I had previously assumed this year, though things are still quite crispy in my garden.

  13. From Rachel @ in bloom:

    I’d love to know more about people’s watering techniques, as well – even more than the actual numbers. (I think the two in tandem would be useful, though.) Do you use sprinklers or drip hoses? Do you hand-water certain plants? Do you use rain barrels, and how big are they, and how long do they last you in a killer year like this one?

    Me, too! I mulch, but as Annie @ The Transplantable Rose pointed out, mulch is more expensive than water. I’ve heard that some people use shade cloth which sounds tempting. Perhaps I wouldn’t have lost my Fatsia had I resorted to it. I do have two rain barrels. More on that in the next post. — mss

  14. From Angelina:

    I can’t find my own water bill for this past month which has been the hottest so far, but in June we used 400 cu ft of water- how do I translate this into gallons? My water and electricity come on the same bill and usually the bill reads the dollar amounts for each but the bill in front of me didn’t break it down. I’ll have to look for my current one.

    I think it’s very useful to get an idea of what other people are using and what situation they have. I feel the same way about groceries. People can be quite cagey about sharing information on amounts of money spent but I always wondered how I can know if I’m spending way too much on groceries unless I can compare with others.

    I have to hand water everything in my garden right now but this winter I plan on putting drip irrigation in. If I can afford it. (Nothing fancy and I will have to be able to do it myself.)

    Water is like gold.

    Angelina, I’m surprised that you have to water at all in that cool, wet clime of yours. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in this country, but I don’t understand people’s reticence about talking money matters. Home economics is a fascinating topic and blogs are a great way for us to share tips and tricks in these hard times. I, too, believe water is like gold. The pervasive modern attitude seems to be to conserve only when it hurts out pocketbook so much we feel forced to. I think we should be looking at solutions long before problems get that much out of hand. — mss

  15. From Julie:

    Dear MSS,

    I wish I could say we’ve taken the same path. You’ve taken the path of diligence and loving attention, meanwhile conserving water. I’ve taken the path of neglect, which is not the same thing and results in something that looks nothing like your lovely garden!

    For comparison’s sake, my neighbor up the street who is a dedicated gardener, has a small lot (about half the size of mine) and lavishes attention and water (including rotating sprinklers) on her garden — two smallish strips of St. Augustine, natives and nons — told me her water bill for each of the past two months has been $200. Just a bit more info.

    Julie, you are giving me more credit than I deserve. Just drive by and check out my front yard to see if I’m not following the path of neglect, as you call it. It is a “thoughtful neglect” I’ll grant; that is, I’ve made conscious–albeit painful–choices. As I said originally, it’s not just the money…I have a big (15,000 sq foot) lot, my plants are spread out, and I don’t have a drip system so I water by hand. I just can’t stand the heat and the mosquitoes anymore. Thus. Neglect. Would we expect our northern friends to spend two hours every frozen winter day tending their gardens–not enjoying them, just trying to keep them alive? — mss

  16. From Iris, Austin, Texas:

    Good thing this isn’t a competition. For two adults (w/no dishwasher), our most recent water bill was $33.00 for 11,100 gallons. (Separate wastewater was $35.72.)

    Where did this water go? I’ve regularly watered three tomato plants and some potted basil and thyme. I’ve spot-watered many of the “drought-tolerant” plants in my not-small (approx. 72′ by 22′) xeric front yard garden, which has no lawn whatsoever.

    One day I left a hose barely dribbling for several hours on the driplines of two 68-year-old trees. I’ve let the horseherb groundcover become crunchy brown. Both side yards are made up of fried miscellaneous weeds, horseherb, and bits of stubborn leftover grass.

    This whole discussion has me thinking more critically about which plants truly deserve my artificial life support. Do I really care if that pink skullcap dies? Probably not. I’ll just replace it later with something tougher.

    “Crunchy brown”. That sounds like my garden. Thanks for the details. Because our water costs more at certain break points I was wondering what it cost to use, say 10,000 gallons or 20,000. (This figure is important in figuring whether or not a rainwater collection system is cost-effective). So I could double my usage and only pay about $33. That’s useful to know. Maybe I shouldn’t have let my front lawn die after all. A note on the dishwasher…we used a lot more water before we got ours. We don’t have to pre-rinse; I couldn’t believe the difference in our water bill after we got it. — mss

  17. From Tara T:

    Austinites don’t complain about the heat all summer?! Y’all have been complaining since May! It ain’t even that bad! It was sad to see the tomatoes go so early though. But I certainly have a few appreciation for succulents and cacti! My plants are holding on, most are in pots now since we’re about to move. Our new place has a drip hose system and two big rain barrels. The whole water dilemma will change dramatically as the new place is just full of plants!

    We don’t NORMALLY complain all summer. But 2008 isn’t normal. This year we’ve been complaining since May because the weather has been like August since May. — mss

  18. From Cindy, Katy:

    Very interesting discussion. Out here in the suburbs of Katy, our water comes from utility districts. I have a sprinkler system in the front and side yards: as the beds have evolved over the years and the lawn has shrunk, the coverage has had to be tweaked. In the back gardens, I have a couple of staked sprinklers set up but I don’t use them often. The plants in the beds are mostly left to fend for themselves on whatever rainfall we receive. I hand water plants that are valuable to me and I’m working on reducing the number of containers that have to be watered. My water bill for June/July was $71 for 19,000 gallons. Of that, $32 was water; $28 was sewer.

    One thing no one has mentioned is how important supplemental water can be to maintaining the integrity of your house’s foundation. Homes built on a concrete slab are subject to the settling of the soil due to drought or deluge. Cracked foundations and the resulting problems are a big concern in the Houston area. We installed our sprinkler system in part due to such issues.

    Thanks for bringing up the foundation issues; it’s a big problem in Austin, too. The majority of homes here are on concrete. (Only part of mine is. The old part of the house is pier and beam which is constantly shifting with changes in the weather causing cracks in the drywall.) The extremes of drought and flood do make our clay soils contract and expand resulting in cracked concrete foundations. Moreover, in the past when we’ve been on mandatory water restrictions, it has been illegal to wet down the foundations. — mss

  19. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    That is so scary about the dropping water level of wells. You are taking the right approach in giving up on things that can’t take the extreme conditions. We’ve been very fortunate here this year & I’ve had to water hardly at all. Of course that doesn’t include my hand watering with the dehumidifier water, which is what I use for my containers.

  20. From Bonnie:

    Gosh, I’m a bit shy to throw in my number here, but it’s such a good discussion. We have 1.5 acres. About 1/2 of the outside is septic field or wooded so is not irrigated. But I’ll be the first to admit we do have a substantial amount of irrigated area-lawn and beds. Family of 4.

    Our water bill for July…35,600 gallons at $207. Man, I feel like you should just brand me now and throw me in the public square for ridicule. But I try to be “water-wise” in my actions, and continue to look for new best practices. Here are some things that I do:

    1. I absolutely adhere to the watering restrictions (no watering between 10am and 7pm and only on my two days.)

    2. We replaced ALL lawn sprinkler heads that were pop-ups with more efficient rotors. This just happened in July so wouldn’t be reflected on the bill I quoted above. I’m hoping to see good results from that.

    3. I converted my two rose beds and my vegetable garden to drip irrigation.

    4. I have removed two areas of lawn and installed native or adapted plants.

    5. I use my 2 rainbarrels to water my rose bed… when they actually have rainwater in them.

    6. I constantly change my irrigation schedule to minimize our usage. It goes lower in spring and fall, has a rain shut-off, and gets turned off in winter. In summer, I try to cut it back as much as I can, but if the grass starts to curl up sideways, I give it a bit more. Right now, the grass is constantly curling. I figure if I can just help it hang on, I don’t care if it is the greenest in the ‘hood. I just don’t want to have to re-sod or replace expensive perennials.

    So what I hope is that I am doing what I can to help limit my consumption-although I’m certainly jealous of those of you with double-digit water bills.

    MSS, for your info, the water price break downs are as follows:
    $.93 per 1000g for first 2000
    $2.43 per 1000g for next 7000
    $4.18 per 1000g for next 6000
    $7.63 per 1000g for remaining

    Bonnie, I have no desire to “brand” anyone. My interest in the numbers is two-fold; to see what it takes to keep a garden going through the kind of unusual heat we’ve had this year and to decide whether a rainwater collection system is really cost-effective. More on that in a future post. Thanks for your extensive breakdown of the numbers…I was wondering what the break points were. There’s such a big difference in the $.93 and the $7.63 per gallon amounts. There’s lots of other strategies to discuss. Does a pool/pond use more water than a garden? How should we divide our gardens into lawns, vegetable, natives or hardscaping to be the most efficient? Are lawns as evil as we are led to believe…or does it depend upon one’s approach to lawns? Do we need to adjust our plant choices or just our expectations? I do not think you would be envious of my water consumption after taking a look at the result. I’d prefer to have your lovely garden, myself. — mss

  21. From Susannah in Austin:

    We used 4200 gallons in July, the most since we moved in to this house in October. We have a small veggie plot, new trees, and a new perennial garden that require a lot of water, but I guess we’re not doing too bad. It was $12.56 for this month. Cheap, for sure. That rain collection tank and gutters I’m dreaming of will certainly not pay for themselves in the near future, but I still want them!

    I just started watering the grass last month, and only the grass that the 4 dogs trample and pee on.

    Thanks for sharing your numbers. You seem to be doing well considering you’re trying to establish new plants. When it comes to gardens (and water usage), size does matter. My garden is too big for me to manage well. I need to create smaller “water zones”. — mss

  22. From mga, Austin:

    I was shocked when we got our utility bill 2 months ago – our water usage had jumped to 17,000 gallons. That’s more than when we had a broken sprinkler line during the winter and didn’t find it for a month. Aside from that our previous max was about 8000 gallons. I was sure we had a leak somewhere, but no. Last month our water usage was 20,000 gallons and the cost of the water is approaching the electric bill (which somehow is much lower than I remember in the summer — maybe it’s going from 5 tons of AC to 4?). And we have recently installed low-flush toilets and shower heads (for which the city is eventually supposed to reimburse us) — that’s why I was looking at the water bill in the first place: I was thinking it would go down, but no! We’re running the sprinklers once a week, at night, and at about 80% of what we used to, and a lot of plants are not really happy but most things are surviving. At my house plants that can’t take a joke tend to die and not get replaced (or replaced with something different). But I think our water is pretty cheap — $80 for 20,000 gallons is not painful.

    Our water is cheap. Looking at the numbers (and comparing them to the price of replacing plants or foundations) I’m tempted to splurge not conserve. — mss

  23. From Robin at Getting Grounded:

    There is an interesting article in today’s American Statesman. Here’s the online link (though you might have to register in order to read it). It names the top ten residential water users for the past month, and guess who tops the charts? Lance Armstrong! He’s been oblivious to his water usage and now says he will investigate. You might enjoy reading it:

    Thanks for calling my attention to this article. Despite my earlier resolve not to slap anyone down for water usage, for one household to use 222,900 gallons a month is a shameful sign of conspicuous consumption when we are supposed to be pulling together as a community to conserve a resource we all depend on. And he’s not even gardening. It’s swimming pools and lawns. According to the article, he uses 26 times the Austin average. From that we can extrapolate that the Austin average is 8573 gallons a month. — mss

  24. From Robin at Getting Grounded:

    I spent over $2000 this spring getting my sprinkler system back up to speed. New controller head, numerous broken pipes, many broken heads, and then even had to replace the main valve by the street. I have new low flush toilets, and there is only two of us living in my small home. I do have a small pond (which used to be bigger and I got tired of having to top it off so frequently in the summer). In July, we actually used 33,000 gallons! I called a city inspector (also to get some rebate money for the sprinkler repairs) and he told me that because of our neighborhood’s extremely high water pressure, my bill is probably double what it might be with normal water pressure. I would have to install a pressure-lowering device at the street. I talked with another neighbor who did this, and I have to admit – I’m not ready to give up my awesome daily morning shower flow. Selfish, I know. But the honest truth.

    Also, I used to water every 5 days in previous years, but I’m meeting the city’s standards of what days per week I can water now, which means I water twice weekly. I guess I could break the rules and water every 5 days, but I risk getting a “ticket”. Normal usage in non-crazy hot year (I also have lots of new plants that I did this year with my new fence – who knew it was going to be a record setting year when I planted?) is about 20k gallons. Still a lot, I know.

    That is part of the dilemma. I didn’t put in plants in 2007 because 2006 had been so horrible. Then 2007 was cool and rainy so I should have. Come 2008, I’m hyped to start again and the heat comes in May and just stays with us. In Austin, we never know what to plan for. Thanks for sharing your number. You’re lucky to have high water pressure. We haven’t updated one of our showerheads and every once in awhile, I enjoy a real blast of a shower. Usually we shower at the gym though. — mss

  25. From garden_path Austin/Leander, TX:

    We are gradually converting our outrageous Rainbird sprinkler system (10 yrs old) to accommodate new raised beds, patios and gravel walkways. I am using manifolds on the old rainbird risers and 1/4″ plastic hoses. We still have two large rainbirds to convert and these are still active. The expense for this conversion cost me $200 this past Spring alone–for risers, manifolds, 1/4″ hose, caps, and other plastic plumbing. We have it all on timer, 3x week @ night with fewer ground pop-ups now, but those water Bermuda grass and new Redbuds. We were not here during June and July and came home to stressed marginal “variety” flower garden. However, the roses did great with the surprise mulch of cantaloupe (from the compost) of which there were about 50 delicious melons! Roses are being watered by 1/4″ hose directed to each individual basin. Few weeds! Hedges are somewhat burned but coming back with addition of soaker hoses. Our water bill was $200 for June and $200 for July with no human consumption. Birds have become dependent on our Rainbird accidently filled fountain. Roses, salvias, Russian sage are the performers right now…..We lost hydrangeas and azaleas.

  26. From Blackswampgirl Kim:

    I had to go check out my July water bill again after reading this post. I’m in Cleveland, Ohio, and we’re going through a relative drought right now so I did water the veggies a little more than usual…. and I also got the itch to clean a bunch of clothes during the month of July (in order to pack them up and give them to the Salvation Army) along with washing the curtains, everything in the linen closet, etc. (Although I do have a front-load washer, and that helps–would help more, though, if DBF would actually load it fully each time like I keep reminding him to.) I also have been playing a lot of sand volleyball, which translates into more and longer showers… I need to get all of the sand off, wash my hair every time (which I don’t otherwise do) etc.

    All that said, during July I “consumed 3 units,” according to my bill, for a cost of $14.97. In June I used 1 unit, and the rest of the past year it fluctuated between 2-3, except for last August when I used 4. (Bad drought, last August.) Interestingly, I cannot find anywhere on our city’s website a definition of what exactly this “unit of consumption” equates to. So I emailed them to ask.

    Incidentally, my highest water usage ever was a year ago this past February, when a week of days in the negative temperatures required me to keep my upstairs faucets dripping for 8 days straight. The water department sent me a letter warning me about my unusual usage… but even at that, my bill was around $40. I had freaked out a bit at the letter, expecting it would be in the 3 digits.

  27. From Blackswampgirl Kim:

    You would think that I would have covered everything in that last post, no? But I forgot to mention that quite a few plants are looking stressed out in this, their second year in the garden and thus their first without supplemental water. I am pretty sure that I’ve lost at least one of my Japaense hollies, and maybe two. And I’ve cut back crispy parts of countless other plants. But I kind of expected this in my dry shade garden, with so many shade plants liking moisture… so I planted things a little tighter than normal. All in all, it still looks okay.

  28. From Manny:

    Global warming and nothing else is the reason for this climate change and we better change our ways or suffer the consequenses.