More than half of the average household's water use occurs outdoors. Here are some simple ways you can reduce water use around the house.

When Caring for Your Yard

save water outdoors sprinkler

  • Water your lawn when it shows it needs it. Stressed grass is wilted, doesn't spring up after you walk on it, and bends lengthwise. You can also use the touch test to see if your plant needs watering. Poke your finger into the soil about 1/2-inch down. If the soil feels relatively dry, it's time to water.
  • Lawns only need about one-half to three-fourths inch of water at a time. Determine how much and how evenly water is being applied by your sprinkler system by placing empty tuna cans around your yard when the sprinkler is on and seeing if they fill at the same rate.
  • To avoid loss of sprinkler water by strong winds, water on calm days.
  • Avoid overwatering. If runoff occurs, stop watering immediately. Adjust automatic sprinklers and/or select proper nozzles to minimize runoff.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to make sure they are working right. Watch for broken or misdirected sprinklers, and repair or readjust them promptly.
  • Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of watering shrubs, trees, and plant beds. It minimizes water evaporation, impedes weed growth, sends water directly to plants' roots. Soaker hoses are an inexpensive alternative to drip irrigation.
  • Place your sprinkler so that its water spray will overlap the area previously watered. Adjust the hose or sprinkler until it waters just the grass or shrubs, not paved areas.
  • When landscaping, group plants together that use the same amount of water and sunlight.
  • Choose "unthirsty" plants that need less water to grow. Your local University Extension Service county agent or neighborhood garden shop can tell you which plants are drought-resistant and require very little water. Many island plants and shrubs fall into this category.
  • Deep penetration through soaking is more effective for most of your lawn. Several light sprinklings may be more useful on slopes and hilly areas, in the shade, or where the soil is sandy, rocky, or full of coral.
  • If you don't have an automatic timer on your sprinkler, use a kitchen timer to remind you to turn off the water.
  • Place pots in pans a little larger than their bottoms, and fill half of the pans so that plants can draw water from the moisture in the soil.
  • Use mulch or grass clippings around plant bases to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed, use fertilizer only when necessary, and use fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Use pesticides only when needed and just on affected areas.
  • Do not apply fertilizer when more than 1 inch of rainfall is predicted in the next 48 hours. Leaching and runoff of nutrient-contaminated water may occur
  • Cut your grass at the highest recommended height for your turf species, or the highest setting on your lawn mower.
  • Keep mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear grass, opening it to disease, and causing it to appear tan and ragged.
  • Leave short grass clippings where they fall, reducing the lawn's need for water and fertilizer, but be sure to remove thick patches of clippings so that the clippings will not kill the grass underneath.

Around Your House

save water outdoors faucet

  • Soft, wet spots on your lawn could indicate an underground leak. Contact your plumber or landscape maintenance specialist if repairs are needed.
  • Don't use a hose to clean your sidewalk, patio, or driveway. Use a broom or rake for cleaning, and save hundreds of gallons of water.
  • Use a sponge instead of a running hose. Use a pail and sponge instead of a running hose to wash your car. Or, use a hose nozzle that shuts off water when you are not wetting or rinsing the car.
  • Check all faucets, hoses and connectors periodically for leaks and to make sure they are in good working order. Make sure faucets are closed when not in use. If you do find a leaky faucet, change the washer — after turning off the shutoff valve.
  • If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter.
  • Cover your spa or pool to reduce evaporation.
  • Check your pool system's shutoff valve. If the water level stays higher than normal and it overflows when people are using it, call your plumber.
  • Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
  • Avoid the installation of ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless the water is recycled.

In Public and Recreational Areas

save water outdoors park shower surfer

  • Take short showers when using public facilities at the park or beach, and turn off the taps securely when you are done.
  • Turn off the faucet after using public washroom facilities.
  • Report leaks in fire hydrants, plumbing, or other public facilities so they can be repaired.

For More Information

Saving Water Indoors