Water As Precious Resource

April 30th, 2008

People used to think about water as an infinite resource. They could use it, abuse it, pollute it and sink their garbage into it with impunity, it would never run dry and would somehow clean itself of sewage and chemicals and industrial waste. This short-sighted view of life’s most precious and necessary resource justified the great post-war “turf boom” expansion of the population into designed suburbs of cookie-cutter houses with neat green lawns and homeowners’ associations that decided they could dictate what residents were allowed to plant, whether there could be a few weeds in the mix, and how often those green expanses of useless grass had to be watered and dosed with chemicals in order to maintain the cookie-cutter expanses of identical expanses of useless grass.


Now that we know water is a lot more precious than we thought, that climate change is imposing long-term droughts on entire swaths of the earth, that unwise allocations have drained ancient aquifers, and that a lot of the water people have to drink is polluted by things nobody really wants to know about, it’s a good time to re-think our entire approach to water. This is yet another necessary change in humanity’s relationship with the natural world that must start in the countryside and outer ‘burbs with motivated individuals who will commit to doing things differently, and educate their neighbors about how it’s done and how great it can be made to look.

Most of the surface and groundwater on the planet is salty. Shortages of fresh water have led to conflicts and open warfare through history. In Bolivia the American corporation Bechtel has attempted to corner the water market in order to privatize it, even making it illegal for individuals to harvest rainwater from their own property. Their model for this ridiculous legislation comes from Colorado, where it’s also illegal to harvest rainwater (because it diminishes downstream supply).


Food not Lawns informs us that 270 billion gallons of water are used in the US every year just to water expanses of useless grass on people’s lawns. Out west in the desert areas of the country 70% of water use is just to sustain turf lawns. We simply cannot keep doing this and still expect to eat and live. If your homestead doesn’t yet have rainbarrels with attached faucets and hoses for watering your garden crops, this is definitely the year to install some, one per down-spout from the roof. The food crisis has hit America and will only get worse. Homesteaders and small farmers – CSA memberships and organizations – will have to take up some of the slack in providing locally grown food to communities, thus we need to be first in line to totally rearrange our water priorities.

We can also educate others about growing native plant species (that do fine with just annual rainfall) where expanses of useless grass used to be – and turning unused areas of their property into vegetable patches and fruit thickets and orchards instead of trying to maintain expanses of useless grass. Grape vines growing on fences can offer summer privacy as well as tasty grapes. Miniature apple, peach, cherry and nut trees can add shady spots for sitting as well as fresh fruit.


Some suburbanites might be amazed at how much food can be grown in small spaces with proper management, or how great it feels to serve a healthy salad with tomatoes and cucumbers to the luncheon club that was entirely grown right there on the porch and in the yard. Getting more involved with our food and food production could do a lot to help encourage a more healthy diet generally, and an appreciation for where food comes from and what it’s really worth.

Once someone in an area visits a naturalized homestead and returns to remake his/her own lawn into a naturescape of natural beauty and healthy water use, it’s just not that hard to start a regular movement. Homeowners in any suburban subdivision are members of their homeowners’ associations. They can arrange for speakers to present at meetings, host xeriscaping field trips and tours, get the rules changed to allow those expanses of useless grass to turn into something naturally useful and beautiful.


Local creeks, rivers and water treatment plants will have to deal with much less of a load of toxins and chemical pesticides and herbicides, overall water use will drop significantly (saving homeowners money, important in a shriveling economy), and neighborly greetings over the fences will include garden talk and food exchanges and good advice and complements to the landscape, instead of just grumpy waves by sweaty, grumpy guys behind loud lawnmowers and leafblowers. Everyone’s lifestyle improves!

Many of us committed homesteaders either live near suburbia or actually in it. Or we know people who live there, and who are so caught up in their dead-end robotic conformities that they could really use something new and hopeful. Check out some of the resources below and see if there’s a way for us forgotten rural dwellers to add something back to what we left behind. Changing the world is a daunting task if you look at it in those missionary terms. But it’s not that hard if all you really want to do is expand your environmental skills to as many neighbors as you can!


Square Foot Gardening
Food not Lawns
Plant Native
Easy Lawns
Yard Beauty

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11 Responses to “Water As Precious Resource”

  1. Will Bee on May 1, 2008 9:30 pm

    Thank you for the very informative post and water-saving ideas. The regime for the development I live in in SC just gave me a notice that the timer on my irrigation system is disfunctional. It seems likely that in their inspection they may not have noticed that it was unplugged… and intentionally so.
    The neighborhood spends hundreds per house a year watering grass that is not indigenous to the area, while a neighboring house outside of the development has grass that has no irrigation system and it grows quite well.
    As you indicated… we must change our ways of thinking about water.

  2. Aileen on May 13, 2008 6:47 pm

    Hi, Will! I’m a homesteader, so I don’t have to deal with homeowner’s associations or such. But many people I know do, and they’ve been steadily changing their landscapes toward less grass and more “focal points” that so far haven’t drawn the association’s ire.

    I’ve been trying for a decade to replace all the grass in our cleared area (about an acre and a half) with white clover. Buy bags every spring and sow it thickly. The grass is so darned tough that it manages to survive (and need mowing regularly) anyway, we’ve never watered it at all but live in the NC mountains, it rains a lot here. Still the clover is very nice. Thick and green, it takes mowing well and is plenty tough enough for the disc golf fairways, doesn’t grow more than 4 inches tall even if you never mow it. Little white flowers are kind of pretty too!

    Suppose if I lived in the ‘burbs I’d just roll up the sod and start all over again with white clover instead. Besides, it’s a legume and fixes nitrogen in the soil – no fertilizers necessary!

  3. avantika on June 9, 2010 9:53 am

    i have make project thats topic is water. from this website i have also learn how precious is water

  4. riddhi on July 21, 2010 10:43 am

    ossom !!!!!!!!!!
    i just love it!!!!!!!

  5. TEEPA on January 20, 2011 12:29 pm

    SAVE WATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. rishabh on June 14, 2011 10:57 am

    thank you for the information you provided….
    fuck you americans for wasting gallons of this precious resource…..

  7. Aileen on June 16, 2011 10:29 pm

    Seems like everyone wastes this precious resource these days, sadly. So now they’re talking about nuclear desalination plants. THAT would be something really shameful…

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    [...] is a precious resource, and although it flows freely from the tap, it’s not infinite. Green campus lawns, clean [...]

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    [...] is a precious resource, and although it flows freely from the tap, it’s not infinite. Green campus lawns, clean [...]

  10. Ritik on August 7, 2012 11:55 am

    Save Water Save Earth !!!!!!

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