A typical 10,000-square-foot Kentucky bluegrass lawn requires 3,800 gallons of water a week and costs an average $354 per growing season for electricity to pump that water.
Those are statistics several members of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee want people to consider when deciding how to landscape their properties.
Amid a variety of flowering plants and drought-resistant grasses at Montana State University’s experimental gardens Wednesday, members of the sustainable operations subcommittee of the GYCC spoke about a new, free guide to landscaping with less water.
Coined by the Denver Water Department, xeriscaping is the practice of creating functional and beautiful landscaping that requires less water, the guide states.
For example, that 10,000-square-foot lawn planted with drought-resistant grasses and native plants uses about 2,318 gallons of water weekly and costs more than $100 less in electrical pumping power. In other words, xeriscaping provides, on average, a 39 percent reduction in water usage over traditional landscaping, a 2001 study cited in the guide states.
Two years in the making, the guide was a coordinated effort between the GYCC’s federal land managers, MSU horticulture professor Tracy Dougher and Dougher’s students.
The 30-page guide provides tips on planning, soil preparation, plant selection, mulching, irrigation and maintenance — all in the context of xeriscaping.
The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem stretches from north of Big Timber east to Cody and Lander, Wyo., south of Jackson and west into Idaho.
And people have many misconceptions about water in the region, said Jane Ruchman, a landscape architect for the Gallatin National Forest.
“There’s a feeling that there’s more water on the southern end of the ecosystem,” she said. A Jackson Hole landscaper told her, “We don’t have to worry about water; we have plenty of it.”
But the Rocky Mountain West is one of the fastest growing areas of the nation.
“And it can’t grow without water,” Ruchman said. “Water is an important issue; it’s for fighting over in the West.”
In urban areas, about 50 percent of municipal water is used for watering landscaping, “which blows me away,” she added.
Kaye Suzuki, a range management specialist with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, called the guide “a teaser.”
Limited by funding, there was so much more information they could have included. But Suzuki said she hopes the document will show people that it’s “possible, probable and enjoyable” to use different and more sustainable landscape designs.
“It’s a tool to start the process,” she said.
The guide is available online to download at: http://bdcne.ws/xeriscape-guide. For more information, on the guide or MSU’s xeriscaping experiments, call Dougher at 994-6772.