What water-saving word begins with X? Hint: It’s not “xylophone”.

    Xeriscaping (zeer-i-skay-ping) — also known as “smart-scaping” drought-tolerant or drought-friendly landscaping — means landscape design that uses various methods to minimize water use.

    Xeriscaped lawns and parks are becoming increasingly popular in certain parts of the country, including the Southwest, Colorado, and California, where natural desert habitats or recent drought conditions have made water for lawn upkeep (increasingly) scarce.

    The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that water used on lawns constitutes one-third of household water usage. That number can be as high as 50 or 60 percent in dry climates. The EPA also quotes some experts as putting outdoor water waste at 50 percent because of evaporation, wind and runoff due to land gradations and ineffective irrigation systems.

    The EPA’s simple advice about grass lawns is that they do NOT need watering every day. The test: step on a spot on your lawn, and if the grass springs back, then no watering is needed.

    In drier climates, many people are moving away from lawns altogether and turning with xeriscaping to avoid using the large quantity of water needed to keep grass green.

    So how is xeriscaping done? We broke it down into a few simple steps, though landscapers will tell you methods can vary:

    1. Decide where you’d like to xeriscape. You may just do slopes that are difficult to water due to runoff, or strips that are too thin for mowers—or maybe you’ll do the whole lawn.
    2. Get rid of the grass. By removing a bermudagrass lawn, says the University of Arizona, outdoor water savings of 50 to 75 percent are possible. The U of A recommends using glyphosate (sold under many brand names) to kill the grass, because it is effective but not a herbicide that will stay in the soil and disrupt later plant growth. (Also, keep turf grasses for highly trafficked areas.)
    3. Replace formerly grassy areas with weed barrier fabrics (geotextiles) topped with mulch (note: thicker layers of mulch retain more water). Keep rock and gravel to a minimum as they increase air and soil temperatures.
    4. Choose some plants that are native to your local area and have adapted themselves to the local climate and rainfall, or low-water plants such as succulents that thrive in full sun.

    And you’re in the water-saving business! Xeriscaped lawns can be really pretty, too. Here are a few great resources for xeriscaping facts: