Water Wise Homes and Landscapes

In terms of impactful weather, 2012 was a year for the record books, with minimal amounts of rainfall and extreme heat across the state. Drought conditions continue across much of the state. Some public water systems in Nebraska are restricting water use as a result of drought conditions and the inability to meet peak demand. Some families with private wells also are having difficulty meeting needs.

In the case of a multi-year drought, water level drawdowns in an aquifer that occurred during one summer may still exist to some extent at the start of the next summer. When this situation occurs, the aquifer has less water in storage than normal, and wells that were unaffected the previous summer of the drought may experience water supply difficulties in subsequent years of the drought.

Make Every Drop Count

UNL has developed three brochures with water conservation tips homeowners can use to conserve water in the home and landscape. These brochures can be viewed online and printed two-sided on 8.5 x 11 paper and distributed.

  • Make Every Drop Count in Your Home- HTML, Brochure
    The toilet, shower/bath, and clothes washing machine account for about two-thirds of the water used in an average household. Learn what you can do to save hundreds of gallons of water in a month.
  • Make Every Drop Count on Your Lawn- HTML, Brochure
    Learn how to plan and adjust lawn watering to provide for plants while conserving water.  
  • Make Every Drop Count on Your Landscape- HTML, Brochure
    Design your landscape to create water zones with similar water needs, add mulch, and amend soils to improve their water-holding capacity.

Conserve Water in the Home

Sharon Skipton, University of Nebraska Extension, explains two major ways to conserve water in your home.

Household Water Use

  • 100-Gallon Challenge.  Most people use 60-100 gallons of water per person per day. Take this on-line quiz on Water.unl.edu to calculate the savings you can make in your home water use.
  • Toilet Water Conservation.If you want to become more water-efficient in your home, start with the toilet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that toilet use in the United States accounts for about 9000 gallons of water used per person per year.
  • Household Water Use: Typical Uses and Conservation Practices. People use water not only for drinking and cooking, but for bathing, cleaning and many other purposes. However, the amount used by families in their home can vary because people have different water use habits and a variety of fixtures and appliances installed in their homes. Learn how to reduce your families water consumption.
  • Water Conservation in the Shower. Older showerheads might use as much as 6 to 8 gallons of water per minute (gpm). If you take an eight- minute shower using one of those showerheads, you will use 48 to 64 gallons of water.

Private Wells

  • Managing Private Wells During Drought. Private water wells are often shallower than municipal wells and more susceptible to adverse impacts earlier in water stress periods. Learn to identify the signals of drops in the water level and implement water conservation measures to reduce the impact. In some cases a more permanent solution may provide longer term relief.
  • Supplementing Your Private Drinking Water Supply. When water is limited, some individuals may resort to hauling water daily from a nearby source. These recommendations can help ensure a safe supply.  
  • Drinking Water: Storing an Emergency Supply. To prepare for possible water shortages, store an emergency water supply following directions in this University of Nebraska-Lincoln NebGuide.
  • Preparing An Emergency Water Supply. Having a supply of water stored in case of an emergency is a good idea, especially during snow storm or tornado season! University of Nebraska Extension shares how-to information in this short video.


  • Safe Drinking Water Before, During, and After a Disaster - While a drought is not like many other disasters that occur rapidly and are over just as rapidly, a drought is a disaster, and the information is good.  It is appropriate for all audiences; people who use a public water supply and people who use a private well.

News Articles

These writings appear in weekly newspapers throughout eastern Nebraska, and in the Home & Garden section of droughtresources.unl.edu, with the goal of helping homeowners manage their landscapes during drought.  Public water suppliers are welcome to use these writings in their newsletters, or other clientele information tools, or share them with their community newspaper.  Please credit UNL Extension as the information source.

Buildings & Homes

Dry Soil May Cause Building Foundation Problems, Drought not only affects crops and plants. It also may cause sticking doors or windows, and cracks in walls or ceilings due to soil shrinkage.

Dry Weather, Dry Plants Are Fire Risks - During the dormant season, with dry plants and dry plant material not being covered by snow or moistened by rain, be aware of the potential fire hazard.

Fruits & Vegetables

Prepare Vegetable Gardens for Dry Summer Conditions - With the possibility of drought conditions again this summer, it's a good idea to prepare your gardens properly so that your vegetables can withstand reduced water throughout the summer.

Municipal Water Use

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: A Look at the Municipal Side of Water Conservation - Conserving water in homes and outdoor landscapes not only helps preserve this vital natural resource, but also has benefits that go beyond what some may realize.


Keeping Your Landscape Healthy During Drought - Knowing how and when to water, as well as setting landscape priorities can help you focus your efforts.

Mulch 101 - Before mulching, think about moisture retention, weed suppression, cooling or warming the soil, and of course, its appearance.

Mulch to Conserve Soil Moisture - Mulching plants during winter can reduce injury from winter drying.

Rainwater Harvesting

Alternative Water for Landscape Conservation - In many cases, public water supplies treated to a minimum standard are used for lawn and landscape irrigation. Plants do not require water that has been treated to drinking water standards.

Harvest the Rain - Because water is an important resource that needs to be conserved, rainwater harvesting is a growing trend.


Amending Soil for Water Conservation - Good soil is the foundation to efficient water use and healthy plants.

Soil Amendments for Lawns and Landscapes - Soil composition and quality is a critical factor in the health of lawn grasses or landscape plants.  Knowing the characteristics of your soil, and using soil amendments if needed, will create a good growing environment for a healthy landscape. 

Trees & Shrubs

Heat, Drought Is Hard on Trees - Pay particular attention to trees and shrubs and thoroughly water them if they begin to show signs of leaf wilt, discoloration or drying.

Fall Watering Aids Tree & Shrub Health - Dry late summer and fall conditions can result in extremely dry soil conditions, result in root death, and a corresponding death of branches and foliage.

Mulch 101 - Before mulching, think about moisture retention, weed suppression, cooling or warming the soil, and of course, its appearance.

Pruning Drought Stressed Trees - Pruning drought stressed trees could lead to increased risk of a disease or insect attack, or slow a trees recovery from drought.

Watering Tips for Trees & Shrubs: When to Water - Follow these easy tips to make the best use of water in your landscape.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: Trees and Turf Have Different Water Needs - Trees and turf often share space in home landscapes, but they have different water needs. Understanding this can help conserve water and save money.

Windbreaks and Snow Fences - The ongoing drought makes us value whatever moisture we get, even snow.


13 Effective Strategies for Managing Lawns during Periods of Hot, Dry Weather - Turf care under the hot sun.

Avoid Overwatering Lawns and Landscapes - When it comes to landscape irrigation, much water is wasted. Some estimates are that lawns and landscapes are overwatered by 30 to 300 percent.

How Long Will Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue Survive When Dormant? - Either because of drought or perhaps to conserve water, cool-season grasses can be allowed to go dormant in extended droughts.

Increase Lawn Irrigation Efficiency - Like any mechanical system with moving parts, irrigation systems need to be properly maintained and regularly checked to determine if they are operating correctly.

Step by Step Lawn Rehabilitation - Lawns that have been damaged can either be overseeded, or killed and renovated.  Learn the steps to re-establishing a healthy, thick turf.

Stressed Turf Over Septic Tank - While areas over the drainfield may remain lush and green, quite the opposite may happen above the septic tank.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: Alternative to Bluegrass Turf - The single biggest use of water in the average western Nebraska household is irrigating the Kentucky bluegrass lawn. Homeowners in western Nebraska have two alternative.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: Give Your Lawn Irrigation System an Audit - The weather has heated up, and sprinkler systems are watering lawns all over town. This is the ideal time to audit sprinkler system performance.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: When to Start Watering, Fertilizing and Mowing in Western Nebraska - When spring brings warmer days, it's tempting to watering the lawn and spread some fertilizer. But before you do that, take a moment to stop and think.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: Fertilizing and Mowing Your Lawn - Fertilizing a turf grass lawn is a lot more than just buying a bag of fertilizer and spreading it all in the spring.

Water Wise for Western Nebraska: Trees and Turf Have Different Water Needs - Trees and turf often share space in home landscapes, but they have different water needs. Understanding this can help conserve water and save money.


Public Water Supply Providers

In order to help public water supply providers and their clientele make wise decisions regarding the use of water in and around the home, UNL Extension has assembled a group of research-based recommendations and features. In short, this site will be a "one-stop shop for information on wise water use in and around the home.

Public water supply providers are welcome to link to, print and distribute, or otherwise use any of the information and features on the site as long as UNL Extension is credited as the source and you do not profit from its use.

Ag Almanac Audio Recordings

Water Conservation in the Home
Efficient use of water is always important, even when there seems to be plenty of water. Bruce Dvorak, UNL Extension Environmental Engineering Specialist.

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Harvesting Rain
Methods of rain harvesting include using rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens and bioretention gardens. Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator

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Wise Water Use in Homes
Many communities and rural water areas have been put on water restrictions due to the drought. Conserving water in the home can help. Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Water Quality Educator.

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Water Wise NebGuides

Water Wise: Vegetable and Fruit Production, G2189
Following simple water management guidelines will help keep vegetable and fruit production strong during periods of drought.

Water Wise: Drought Effects on Turf in the Landscape, G2191
Periods of drought can damage turfgrass. Through careful selection of turfgrass species and irrigation, turfgrass can remain healthy.

Water Wise: Managing Low-Capacity Private Drinking Water Wells During Drought, G2188
Groundwater from aquifers supplies almost all household water use in Nebraska's rural areas. When groundwater levels decline during a drought, efficient water use and good management of groundwater are particularly important.

Water Wise: Water Conservation In The Home, G2190
Efficient water use is important during periods of drought. Selecting water-efficient appliances and keeping fixtures in good working order can reduce the amount of water used in homes.