Then the announcement came that our water rates may increase sharply , so I figured it was time for a post about water and a long-term experiment of mine.
For fun and profit, I invest in Denver real estate, so water costs and landscape maintenance costs are very important to me. Therefore in 2005 when we acquired a house with a dead front yard, we decided to till out the weeds, place down weed barrier, and cover it with mulch. For the whole front yard, this cost $450 including mulch, and took one day with two laborers. In recent years, free mulch from recycled trees has become common.
This simple project saves about $140/year in water, and $200/year for mowing and maintenance. This particular yard doesn't look nice, but there are no weeds at all:
A dirt yard doesn't look any good either, but you still have to mow the weeds that sprout it if you have a rainy spell, and you get a lot more mud tracked into the house:
We've also experimented with a few drought tolerant plants, and found cactus can be grown without a drip watering system. Pea gravel makes for a better play area and lasts longer, but it is more expensive than free mulch.
History Lesson:During the drought of 2003, Denver Water (DW) begged us to reduce water usage, and invoked watering restrictions that we followed successfully enough to reduce overall usage by over 40%. DW promptly rewarded our diligent efforts with a sharp rate increase. See, when the number of gallons of usage goes down, the infrastructure and management costs of water distribution must go up on a per gallon basis. Gee thanks, DW.