Oahu water rates are increasing by nearly 10 percent this January and will continue to rise over the next four years. Many residents are trying to think up ways to reduce water bills to keep more money in their pockets.
Experts say half of the average water bill for a single-family home comes from watering the lawn. Since 1989 the Board of Water Supply has provided free tours at its Halawa Xeriscape garden, educating customers on how to cut outdoor water use.
Xeriscaping is landscaping using plants that don't need a lot of water. Diane Moses is one of the specialists there who educates people about the money-saving technique.
As Moses stands next to a healthy rosemary shrub, she explains herb plants aren't very thirsty. "We don't even water this one, so Mother Nature does it's thing and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger," Moses said.
There are clues you should look for when choosing a not-so-thirsty plant for your yard. Pay close attention to the xeric, or dry, plants' leaves. Choose ones that have leaves that have either shiny, small, round, silver or hairy.
Moses said just because the xeric plants don't need a lot of water doesn't mean they are unattractive. She pointed out plants that are common in landscapes: Desert Rose, Crown Flower, and tall Loulu Fan Palms.
Arthur Aiu, another specialist at the xeriscape garden, said most, if not all, native Hawaiian plants need little water.
"The fact that it got here naturally and survived by natural climate conditions, they could probably survive on natural rainfall," Aiu said.
The key to keeping a thriving garden is the mulch. The garden employees recommend surrounding your plants with at least 3 inches of it to keep in the moisture. The Board of Water Supply facility provides mulch free to the public.
Halawa Xeriscape Garden is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call (808) 748-5041.