A low-tech way to direct rainwater back into the soil instead of out onto the street and into storm drains is to hardscape with permeable paving materials. Unlike blacktop, these materials let water percolate down through joints between the pavers or through pores in them.

Likewise, plantable pavers are designed with openings through which the landscaper can plant grass.

Builders in Richmond, Va., may cover no more than 16% of their home sites with nonpermeable surfaces like concrete sidewalks or asphalt driveways—and the house itself—that prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground.

Builder Lloyd Poe, owner of LifeStyle Builders & Developers in Richmond, says as lot sizes get smaller, he will line the alleyways behind new rear-loaded homes with permeable pavers.

“It’s a greener way to build,” he notes, “and by doing that, you can build a bigger house.”

Regardless of method, Miller says builders are in the best position to change the water-wasting habits of their home buyers. “We can have a major, positive influence,” he notes. “It’s not too late to change. ”

Sharon O’Malley is a freelance writer in College Park, Md.



HydroPoint. The WeatherTRAK evapotranspiration controller automatically adjusts irrigation schedules based on landscape needs and local weather conditions. WeatherTRAK eliminates landscape overwatering and saves four times more water than any other technology, the maker claims. The device draws on information delivered wirelessly from 27,000 weather stations to automatically schedule irrigation based on the outdoor temperature, how much it has rained, and how much water each plant needs. 800.362.8774. www.weathertrak.com.


Rain Bird. The Gardener’s Drip Kit includes all the connections, tubing, emitters, and tools necessary to install the drip irrigation system to an outdoor faucet or an underground irrigation system, the manufacturer says. Once installed, the system will distribute water slowly and consistently direct to the plants’ roots, helping them thrive while using less water than a conventional irrigation system. The drip places water directly on the soil above the plants’ roots, letting the water soak down to the roots—reducing runoff and eliminating water waste, the company says. The kit is a reengineered version of the company’s professional-grade drip components, so it is easier to install, the firm says. 800.724.6247. www.rainbird.com.


Pine Hall Brick. The manufacturer’s permeable brick pavers enable storm water to filter into the soil instead of draining into streams and rivers, and satisfy state and local storm-water management requirements, the maker says. The company says its pavers are easier to install than some because there are only slight variations in size. The clay brick pavers are the same color throughout, so they never fade, the firm says, and once in place, they will last more than a century. 800.334.8689. www.pinehallbrick.com.


Aaron’s Rain Barrels. The manufacturer’s irrigation rain barrels are made from 20 pounds of recycled plastic or 110 pounds of oak, brass, and steel. The barrels have two spigots and connect directly to a home’s rain gutter downspouts. A removable zinc irrigation spigot can attach to a regular garden hose and has a shut-off value so the homeowner can leave it open for drip irrigation. The 58-gallon plastic rain barrel is fully enclosed for safety. The company’s wooden whiskey barrels (pictured) are reclaimed from Kentucky distilleries. 978.790.1816. www.ne-design.net.


Netafim. Bioline Dripperline disperses waste water through a drip-irrigation system. The flexible tubing delivers a slow, steady application of water directly to plants, eliminating overspray, staining, and slippery surfaces, the manufacturer says, and reduces water use 30% to 70% compared with sprinklers. The system’s modular components allow for a flexible design that can reach oddly shaped and hard-to-water areas, and can disperse from a few hundred gallons to millions of gallons of water per day, the company says. 888.638.2346. www.netafimusa.com.