Think Twice Before Irrigating Your Lawn

The water that sprays across your lawn is no different from the water that comes out of your kitchen faucet. Use it wisely.

sprinkler system

The average single-family home uses two to four times more water in the summer than the rest of the year, just to keep their lawns green.

It’s not just a simple matter of turning on the spigot and letting the water flow onto your lawn.  That water has to come from somewhere, and for the 330,000 of us living within the 120 square miles of the Neponset Watershed, that water either comes from underground aquifers in our home towns, or from the Quabbin Reservoir in the middle of the state, and both sources are sustained by precipitation.

Unfortunately, the spring of 2015 has been abnormally dry, and although it may be early in the season to use the word “drought”, it needs to be taken into serious consideration.  Remember when spring used to be rainy?

Professional meteorologist, David Epstein, wrote an interesting blog this week about our dry spring conditions, which is a mind-boggling concept considering the historic snowfall of 2015.  You can read David’s blog by clicking here.

While we should always pay attention to our rain fall and conserve accordingly, it’s often easy to forget about it, especially when water delivery is as simple as a turn of a faucet – and water continues to be so cheap.  We often use more than we need, and although we’re not likely to experience a mega-drought like California, without regular precipitation, we would certainly feel an impact.


The water that you’re using for irrigation is our drinking water.

Although many families are making great strides in water conservation, outdoor water demand in our area is still high, as indicated by the acres of irrigated green lawns that blanket our neighborhoods.  According to the EPA, the average single-family suburban home will use two to four times as much water in spring and summer than the rest of the year, mainly to keep lawns green.

Fortunately, most of the water departments within our watershed are pro-active in their water conservation efforts, and lawn watering restrictions are enacted during the summer months, when demand is high and precipitation tends to be low.

Well thought out restrictions enable towns to conserve enough water for what’s truly essential – drinking, cooking, cleaning, and firefighting – and it’s imperative that residents take water restrictions seriously, for the health and safety of their community.  Failure to comply with restrictions is just irresponsible.

If you must irrigate your lawn, be smart about it.  Consider these tips:


  • Don’t over-water (this happens a lot!)
    • Just one inch of water per week from rain or irrigation is enough to keep a lawn green.
    • You can test your lawn by stepping on a patch of grass; if it springs back, it doesn’t need water
irrigation runoff 2 for web

Don’t let this happen. Water that runs over pavement picks up pollutants, like fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste, and carries it into storm drains, polluting our local waterways.

  • Don’t irrigate mid-day or when it’s windy.  Half of the water will be wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff.
  • Upgrade irrigation systems with a moisture sensor.   Moisture sensors turn on the sprinkler when actually needed, as opposed to automatically timed irrigation systems, which go by the “clock” regardless of weather conditions. (Ever seen sprinklers running in a rainstorm…?)
  • Adjust sprinkler heads to face the lawn and not water the driveway or sidewalk.
  • Fix leaking systems promptly. A broken or missing sprinkler head could waste as much as 25,000 gallons of water over a six-month irrigation season.  Call in a professional to make repairs. 
  • Leave grass long. Set mower to its highest setting and remove less than 1/3 of the grass each time you mow.  Taller grass shades the roots and slows evaporation.
  • Grow drought tolerant grass. Over-seed your lawn in the spring (and fall) with drought tolerant fescue grass seed, which requires less water and fertilizer.

Additional tips for conserving water outdoors:


  • Reduce the amount of grass on your property by planting trees, shrubs, perennials and ground cover—or by building a pervious patio or walkway.
  • Design your garden to include native plants that are drought tolerant. Group plants together by water requirements. Info at:
  • Landscape according to the various zones in your yard. (hot/sunny, cool/shady, moist, dry, etc.)
  • Set up a rain barrel to harvest rain water for plants and shrubs—or to clean garden tools, outdoor furniture, toys, and cars.
  • Redirect downspouts towards lawn, shrubs and garden. This also keeps contaminated runoff from washing down storm drains and polluting our local waterways.
  • Use in-line drip tubing or soaker hoses for trees, shrubs, gardens, and beds.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and control water-stealing weeds.
  • Fix leaking hoses at the connection to the spigot. Replace the hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.
  • Always have a spray nozzle attached to the end of your hose.

For more tips on conserving water outdoors, please visit the WaterSense website.WaterSense is a partnership program with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services.


2 responses to “Think Twice Before Irrigating Your Lawn”

  1. Great tips! I like the idea of using a rain barrel and planting native plants. Not only will it help conserve water, but you will pay less each month for the water. I have also heard of people who recycle the grey water from their house, which I think is by far the best way of conserving water and irrigating one’s yard.

  2. Drew says:

    Good tips here! Nice to know that I don’t have to water everyday. That can make your yard healthier and even save water. Thanks so much for sharing!

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