Saving water outside

Woman watering plants

A large amount of all residential water is used outside – on our lawns and gardens, and washing of cars and driveways. But there are numerous ways you can dramatically reduce your water usage in the outdoors.


Different soils retain different volumes of moisture as demonstrated in the table below.

Soil Type Sand Loam Clay
Water (mm stored in 20cm depth of soil) 12mm 42mm 28mm
  • Plants in sandy soil will require more water to survive as the soil retains relatively little water.

  • However, applying more than 12 mm of water on sandy soil at a time is a waste of water, because it will simply drain through, past the root zone.


  • Replace the soil with better quality loam.
  • Treat the soil with a wetting agent or using water crystals.
  • Add organic matter such as compost.
  • Use plants which thrive in sandy soils, such as coastal plants and some Australian native plants.
  • Consult your local horticultural specialist about how to improve sandy or poorer soils.

  • Choose plants which have a low water requirement and are likely to thrive in the specific conditions in your garden.
  • Native species are usually less thirsty than many exotics and require less nutrients, so you shouldn’t need to fertilise very often.
  • Group plants that require similar watering regimes together.

We have compiled a list of beautiful plants suitable for our area that have a low water requirement. You can choose the category of plant by clicking on the name below:

Large trees | Small trees | ShrubsFlowering perennialsClimbersStrappy leaf plants | Ground coversGrasses | Palms | Efficient irrigation for water conservation guideline

View our Brian Sam's native plants video.


Large trees

(over 8 metres)

Canadian Maple
Lilly Pilly
Apple Gum
Moreton Bay Pine
Norfolk Is Pine
Coast Banksia
Lace Bark Kurrajong
Ivory Curl Flower
Leopard Tree
Cape Chestnut
Leichhardt Bean
Swamp Oak
Lemon Scented Gum
Spotted Gum
Moreton Bay Ash
Exotic Cypress
Chinchilla White Gum
Yellow Gum
Tallow Wood
Crows Ash
Yellow Wood
Claret Ash
White Oak
Silky Oak
Native Frangipani
Bull Bay
Prickly Paperbark
Plane Tree
Red Cedar
Water Gum
Weeping Lilly Pilly 
Chinese Elm (not celtis)
Broad-leaved Paper Bark
Narrow-leaved Ironbark
Illawarra Flame Tree
Western Australian Peppermint
Narrow Leafed Bottle Tree 
Cape Chestnut

Small trees

(4 metres to 8 metres)

Fuchsia Gim
Black Tea Tree
ZigZag Wattle
Weeping Myall
Mt Morgan Wattle
Small Leaf Lilly Pilly
Silk Tree
Soap Tree
Queensland Holly
Irish Strawberry Tree
Orchid Tree
Belladonna Flame Tree
Dawson River Bottlebrush
Bottle Brush 
Weeping Emu Tree
Gum Tree
Grafted Gum
Crepe Myrtle


Abelia (Dwarf)
Flannel Flower
Heath Myrtle
Bremer Boronia
Emu Bush
Native Rosella
French Lavender
Sacred Bamboo
Pink Wax Flower
Flat-stemmed Wattle
Queensland Silver Wattle
Orchid Bush
Ivory Curl Flower
Bushy Sugar Gum
Giant Photinia
Common Boobialla
Bracelet Honey Myrtle
New Zealand Christmas Bush
Big Poly
Showy Wattle
Midgen Berry
Little Kurrajong
Sun Rose or Rock Rose
Mini Ha Ha
New Zealand Tea Tree
Tiny Heath Myrtle
Lavender Cotton
Native Rosemary
Knife-leaf Wattle
Bottle Brush
Lemon Scented Myrtle
Golden Glow
Pink Lady
Dwarf Book Leaf

Flowering perennials

African Daisy
Native Daisy
Straw Flowers
Cone Flower
Pride of Madeira
Blanket Flower
Chocolate Plant
Billy Buttons
Lion's Ear
Perennial Statice
Ivy Leaf Pelargonium
Mulla Mulla
Paper Daisy
Marmalade Daisy
Salvia (non weedy species)
Paint Brush Lily
Lamb's Ear


Climbing Guinea Flower
Wonga Wonga Vine
Virginia Creeper
Pink Trumpet Vine
Orange Trumpet
Banksia Rose
Chinese Star Jasmine
Ornamental Grape Vine

Strappy leaf plants

Kangaroo Paw
Blue Sedge 
Barbwire Grass 
Wallaby Grass 
Flax Lily 
Spear Lily 
Grass Tree 
Lavender Grass 
Blue Fescue 
Day Lily 
Red Hot Poker 
Giant Mondo 
Mat Rush 
Mondo Grass 
Native Iris 
New Zealand Flax 
Jacobean Lily 
The Bird of Paradise 
Nodding Blue Lily 
Kangaroo Grass
Society Garlic 

Ground covers

Baby Sunrose
Hawksberry River Daisy 
Pig Face/Ice Plant 
Prostrate Wattle 
Silver Morning Glory 
Purple Morning Glory 
Seaside Daisy
Blue Eyes 
Woolly Grevillea 
Native Sarsparilla 
Golden Guinea Flower 
Guinea Flower 
Shore Juniper
Creeping Boobialla 
Cotton Lavender 
Bluebell Creeper 
Star Jasmine 
Pink Star 


Buffalo grass
Couch grass
Zoysia grass


Ponytail Palm 
Silver Fan Palm 
Blue Hesper Palm 
Wine Palm
Mediterranean Fan Palm 
Cabbage Palm 
Canary Island Date Palm 
Date Palm 
Dwarf Date Palm 
Cliff Date Palm 
Silver Date Palm 
Mexican Sabal Palm 
Dwarf Sabal Palm 
Palmetto Palm 
Windmill Palm 
Calfornian Fan Palm 
Cotton Palm 


Rough Maidenhair Fern 
Birds Nest Fern 
Soft Tree Fern
Creeping Shield Fern 
Elkhorn (Fern) 



  • A hose with a trigger is handy when watering but remember to turn the hose off at the tap when finished.
  • Manual method of watering (hose and sprinkler or by hand) generally use less water than automatic irrigation systems. These methods also allow you to direct the water exactly where you want it.
  • Drip irrigation reduces evaporation. Existing spray irrigation systems can be converted to drip systems easily and cheaply by changing the spray heads to drip runners.
  • Let your plants indicate when they are in need of water and only then apply enough water to reach the plant root zones.
  • Water at dawn to avoid evaporation and fungal diseases.
  • Use greywater from your washing machine, laundry tub, shower, bath and sinks for watering purposes. 
  • If you have an evaporative airconditioner, direct the overflow into the garden.
  • Use a timer on your sprinkler so you don’t forget to turn it off.
  • Water small areas by hand to avoid waste.
  • Watering less frequently but more thoroughly encourages plants to develop deeper root systems, allowing them to better prepare for drought.

Planning irrigation for your garden 

When planning a new irrigation system or modifying an existing system you should select the system and emitters which are efficient and appropriate for your:

  • soil type of your garden
  • plant selection
  • microclimate

For example, drippers are an excellent and water-wise irrigation option for most gardens, but may not be suitable for sandy soils.

You should consult your local irrigation professionals, horticultural specialist or nursery to determine which system(s) are right for your garden. Your irrigation specialist may design a different type of system for different parts of your garden.

Take a simple plan of your garden along to your local retailer or irrigation specialist so that they can help you design a system which will distribute the right amount of water in the right places.

Installation of new irrigation systems

If you are planning to install a new irrigation system for your garden then you will need to be aware of, and comply with the Efficient irrigation for water conservation guideline.

  • Keep your gardens weeded. Weeds compete with the grass for water.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. Mulch allows the garden to retain moisture in the soil and controls weeds.
  • When adding new plants to your garden, prepare the garden bed with good soil, water storing granules and wetting agent.
  • Prune plants in spring to reduce leaf area which in turn reduces the plants water usage.
  • Improve your soil. Soils with high water-holding capacity, effective drainage and infiltration need less frequent watering. All soil types improve with the addition of organic matter.

  • If planting grass on a new block, use water efficient turf varieties such as buffalo grass, couch grass or zoysia grass.
  • The depth and quality of soil beneath your lawn influences the water retention of your lawn.
    • The underlay soil should be a minimum of 100mm deep.
    • The underlay should be quality loam with sand, silt, clay components and organic matter.
  • A less-than-lush lawn is acceptable when being responsible with water. Just because grass is brown, doesn’t mean it’s dead – it’s just dormant. Dormant grass only needs water every three weeks. When the rain comes, it will turn green quickly.
  • Keep your lawn weeded as weeds compete with the grass for water.
  • Apply the minimum amount of fertiliser needed to reduce watering demands. Apply fertiliser during the spring and summer months when there is higher rainfall and your lawn is actively growing. Use small amounts of an organic fertiliser as this will require far less water post-application than a chemical fertiliser.
  • Install a rainwater tank for watering purposes. To find out more about tanks, read our Rainwater tanks article.
  • Only water your lawn when required. Signs that your lawn is ready for watering include: changing colour, the soil below is difficult to penetrate using a sharp object and the lawn doesn’t spring back after being walked on.
  • Turn off the automated sprinkler system when rain is coming.
  • Check the spread of your sprinkler system.
  • If you have an evaporative airconditioner, direct the overflow into the lawn.
  • Reduce your lawn area with attractive water conservative plant options and ground covers e.g. pebbles.
  • Aerate your lawn so water can reach the roots.
  • Winter lawns require less watering than summer lawns.
  • Adjust your lawnmower to a higher setting. Longer grass will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.
  • Less watering means slower grass growth and gives you an excuse to ignore the mowing for longer! Mow outside of the heat of the day so your newly cut lawn doesn’t dry out.

  • Sweep your driveways and paved areas rather than wash them down.
  • An annual maintenance wash down of windows, surfeit and walls will preserve surfaces longer and reduce the need for a major clean.

  • Use a bucket and sponge rather than a hose to wash your car. When using a hose for rinsing, attach a trigger nozzle so you can control the flow of water.
  • Use a waterless car wash or low water car wash.
  • Wash your car in the rain.
  • Wash your car on the grass using biodegradable cleaning chemicals, so the runoff water waters your lawn for free.

  • Use a pool cover to dramatically reduce loss of water by evaporation.
    • Simple leaf covers will reduce evaporation by approximately 40%.
    • Thicker blankets and security covers will save up to 90% evaporation.
    • A liquid pool cover will reduce evaporation by up to 40%.
  • Increase shade over the pool to reduce evaporation.
  • Protect your pool from the wind to lessen evaporation.
  • Backwash only when necessary.
  • Keep the pool and filters clean to reduce the frequency of backwashing.
  • A sand filter can use up to 8000L of water each year for backwashing. If installing a new pool or changing your filter ,swap to a cartridge filter which doesn’t require backwashing.
  • Keep the water level a bit lower to prevent spillage.
  • Use a rainwater tank or downpipe rainwater diverter to fill the pool or spa.
  • You can still have fun in the pool without wasting water. Discourage dive bombing and constant jumping in and out of the pool. Pool users can skim the water off their body on the top step before getting out so the water is returned to the pool.

Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 August 2019 20:04
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