How Can I Save Water?



Plants & Garden

Did you know that up to 50% of the water used in a typical Abu Dhabi villa is used in the garden?

Depending on the size of your garden, it can easily be the largest single area of water use in your home. That also makes it a great place to start saving lots of water.


Even if you have a very small garden or only potted plants, the tips below will help make sure your garden is a Waterwise one.

There are many factors that determine how much water your garden needs and some can be adjusted to use water more wisely. They include:

  The types of plants you choose

  Where they are planted

  How they are planted

  How you water your plants

  Where you live

  Climate and environmental conditions

  Characteristics of your soil

A Waterwise garden starts with effective design and planning. After that, watering and other maintenance can be easy!

For advanced questions or advice about your garden’s specific needs, please consult a qualified landscape or gardening professional.

  • Garden

    • Choose plants that are native to the UAE or other semi-arid regions. Those are the best suited to Abu Dhabi’s hot and dry conditions. They may need up to 50% less water, less maintenance and will do better through the hot summers than species from moderate and tropical climates.
    • Apply xeriscaping principles when planning your garden. Xeriscaping is a way of designing the landscape of your garden to be as water efficient as possible. It considers factors like plant selection, soil, mulch, layout, irrigation and other maintenance requirements to make a water-efficient garden. Xeriscaping is similar to our Waterwise gardening tips, and something you can learn more about on your own or by speaking with a qualified landscape or gardening professional.
    • Grass lawns are enjoyable but they often need the most water of any of the plants in your garden. So when planning your garden, consider instead:
      • Smaller grass areas, more shrubs and ground cover—especially succulent and perennial plants, as they require much less water.
      • Patios, stone pathways or artificial grass—all can be useful and enjoyable and they don’t need any water at all!
    • When you do choose grass, choose warm-climate and drought-tolerant grass species like:
      • Grass1
        Swamp Couch (Paspalum Vaginatum)
      • Bermuda Grass (Cynodon Dactylon)
      • Saint Augustine, aka Buffalo (Stenotaphrum Secundatum)
    • All of these are available in Abu Dhabi. Swamp Couch is especially salt-tolerant, making it an excellent choice for those who live by the sea or use brackish water for irrigation.
    • Plant a new garden or lawn during a cool season, as new lawns generally require more water after they’re first planted. 
    • New plants often require extra water and care for a short period after they’re first planted, so be sure to follow your garden professional’s advice. Then return to your Waterwise ways once your new plants have established themselves.
  • garden 2
    • Different types of soil absorb and drain water differently. If your soil is sandy and drains too quickly, you might consider adding soil wetting agents (crystals or gels) to help it retain its moisture for longer. If you have questions about your soil, consult a gardening professional.
    • Sculpt a ring of soil around the base of your plants to trap a bit more water and direct it to the roots. The ring should be just larger than the plant’s root ball, so water seeping straight down reaches all of its roots.
    • Apply a layer of mulch on top of your soil, especially at the base of plants, to help it retain its moisture. Mulch reduces evaporation by up to 70% by acting like a blanket to protect the soil from the baking sun and drying winds. 
      • Lightweight mulches like sawdust, coconut or pine bark don’t last very long in Abu Dhabi’s climate—blowing away or disintegrating in the sun.
      • Although more expensive initially, rough mulch like pebbles, stone, gravel and even recycled concrete and bricks can be better. If they are light coloured, they will reflect the sun's rays and help to keep the soil cool. Remember to apply a layer of fertiliser below the mulch, as these coarser mulches do not provide any nutrients to the plant like some finer ones do.
    • Cut terraces into slopes to let water collect and soak into the soil instead of simply flowing downhill. “Terracing” helps avoid excessive runoff and makes sure the water benefits your plants instead of pooling in unwanted areas or flowing down a drain.
    • The most important tip is to know your garden’s sun, shade and wind factors and to plan your plants and their locations accordingly. Observe how areas of direct sunlight change throughout the day and with the seasons. South-facing walls and balconies get more sun year-round, for example.
    • Hydrozone” your garden—group plants with similar water, sun and shade needs together. This makes it easier to water them efficiently.
    • Too much direct sun and wind can damage your plants and dry your soil. To reduce those effects, use shade and windbreaks. Your home will provide some shade and wind protection, Fence1so use that to your plants’ advantage. Trees are a great natural source of shade for plants below, and drought-resistant hedges like Dodonea, Vitex and Texas Ranger, for example, can protect your garden from wind. You might also erect canopies, walls or fences in your garden for your plants’ (and your own) comfort.
    • No matter how you water your garden, the first rule of Waterwise watering is: water the roots, not the leaves. Water the soil at the base of your plants to let it soak to the roots instead of evaporating into the air
    • Using a watering can may be the most Waterwise way to water. It can give you the most control over how much water you use and the best understanding of how much your garden needs in different areas. By getting close to your plants, you’ll be better able to spot problems and notice beautiful details about your garden. But as gardens grow in size, watering cans may become less practical.
    • Hose1Hoses also allow you to give more personal control and attention to your garden than automated systems, but it’s easy to water for too long. Set a timer to remind you when to stop, and always use a nozzle that turns on and off easily—don’t let your hose run freely while you turn it on and off at the source. An open, free-flowing hose can use up to 20 litres of water per minute!
    • Automated irrigation systems can make watering large gardens easy. Use appropriate equipment or a combination that lets you water the different parts of your garden as efficiently as possible.
    • Use irrigation timers to easily make sure your garden is watered at the right times. Remember, it is still important to check the soil and consider the conditions before watering. Skip a watering day if the soil is still damp or if it has just rained.
    • When using lawn sprinklers, avoid models that spray water too high, too far or in too fine a mist. They lose much more water to evaporation.
    • Be sure your sprinklers do not water any unnecessary areas, like pavements and other unplanted areas. If your sprinklers water the wrong areas, unevenly, or if they cause water to pool, adjustment them as necessary. If the adjustments don’t work well enough or you see room for improvement, talk with a gardening professional about installing a more water-efficient irrigation system.
    • Check your irrigation system regularly for leaks and if you notice any, have it fixed immediately to avoid wasting any more water.
    • Re-using water is twice as nice! Whenever you can, water your plants with water that you would otherwise let go down the drain. For example, while waiting for the shower to warm up or while rinsing fruits or vegetables, collect that water in a bucket or watering can and give it to your plants. Giving your water another go-around is extra Waterwise!
    • Water your garden in the early mornings or late evenings only, when temperatures are at their coolest and winds are low. Much more of your water evaporates into the air in the high heat of day and when it’s windy, lost into the air instead of reaching your plants’ roots. Some say that between 5am and 9am is the best time to water daily.
    • Add an automatic timer to your irrigation system to make it extra easy to water your garden at the right times. Don’t forget to change the settings in summer and winter to give your garden enough water, but not too much.
    • How long you should you water? That depends on your garden, but many experts say you should give your garden about 1 inch of water at a time. How do you know how much is 1 inch of water? Here’s a simple trick to find out:
    1. Place a few empty tuna cans (usually 1-inch-deep) around your lawn or at the base of plants.
    2. Start a timer at the same time that you turn on your irrigation system.
    3. When the average can is full (some may get more water and others less), stop the timer and turn off your sprinklers. That's how long it takes to give your garden 1 inch of water.
    4. Water for that same amount of time from now on.
    • Regardless of what time you water, always make sure your plants actually need more water before you give it to them. Check the soil for moisture before you water lawns and plants alike. It’s as simple as this:
      • Put your finger into the soil down to your knuckle (over an inch).
      • If it is dry, go ahead and water.
      • If it is damp, skip the watering for that day.
    • If your leaves or grass start turning yellow, that’s a sign of overwatering. Water less frequently and allow the soil to dry between waterings.
    • Note that new lawns need to remain damp until the grass roots grow firmly into the soil and Waterwise lawn watering rules do not apply here.
  • Reapply mulch and soil wetting agents as needed to help the soil retain its moisture. Take advice from your gardening professional here.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to keep grass longer, especially when the weather is hot. A taller lawn shades the roots and holds soil moisture better. Don’t cut grass more than 1/3 its length at a time and try to keep it between 5cm to 8 cm in length.
  • Aerate your lawn at least once a year to give it more oxygen and help it retain its moisture. Aeration removes small plugs of soil at a time, letting air and water reach the roots more easily.
  • Fertilising your lawn will make your grass healthier. But in doing this, make sure that you follow the directions on the package (or consult with your gardening professional), as over-feeding can slow the growth of grass and can also cause fungi. Specific fertilisers are made for certain seasons and weather conditions. 
  • PruningShearsOne easy way to fertilise grass and shade your soil at the same time is to spread the cut grass (from mowing) back over your lawn.
  • Remove weeds regularly, as these unwanted guests drink your water too!
  • Ensure the good health of all your plants by pruning effectively.