How to Conserve Water and Keep a Healthy Lawn


Every Boulder homeowner can agree that nothing beats a beautiful green lawn. Whether it’s you and the family relaxing out back or you’re having the whole neighborhood over for a big summer shindig, a well-kept lawn is inviting. Every Boulder homeowner can agree that nothing beats a beautiful green lawn. Whether it’s you and the family relaxing out back or you’re having the whole neighborhood over for a big summer shindig, a well-kept lawn is inviting. 

Plus, a gorgeous lawn increases the value of your home when it’s time for your next chapter. And did you know a well-maintained lawn means fewer bugs?

In Boulder County, a dryer climate and some fast-moving weather patterns can make keeping your lawn green and fresh a challenge. A big part of keeping your lawn beautiful is making sure it’s watered consistently.

At the same time, no one wants to waste water — especially in Colorado, a state prone to drought. Plus, watering your lawn costs money — about a half a cent per square foot per week. Do the math and your average backyard might cost $8 to $15 a week to water during the summer, or more.

Now imagine if you are overwatering or wasting water. You can easily save hundreds of dollars over the summer if you work to conserve water.

Yet every summer, many homeowners waste water in an effort to keep a healthy lawn: The EPA reports that approximately 50% of water used outdoors is wasted.

Fortunately, there are ways to conserve water while still seeing to the care of your lawn. From not over-watering and mowing wisely to incorporating water-efficient technologies, here’s our list of 7 tips to conserve water while maintaining a healthy lawn.

7 Tips to Conserve Water While Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

There are many ways to conserve water in lawn care. Some are free and easy to do, while others require more of an investment. Below we start with the easiest conservation tricks and work our way up to some more intensive (but very effective) options.

Water Appropriately

The simplest way to not waste water on your lawn? Don’t overwater.

Your grass often doesn’t need as much water as you may think it does. Watering too much doesn’t encourage grass to grow deep roots, so it becomes more dependent on regular watering.

To combat this, try to only water your grass when it shows signs of needing it:

  • Instead of bright green, the grass’ color is dull
  • The grass is visibly wilting
  • Your footprints remain visible in the grass when you walk across it:

Make sure you water your lawn at the right time of day to minimize evaporation. Early in the morning is typically the coolest time of the day, which makes it a good time to water as your lawn can maintain moisture longer.

Avoid watering your lawn when it’s windy, as wind will blow water from your sprinklers all over, so half of the water could end up in the street or your neighbor’s lawn.

Finally, make sure your sprinkler system allows you to set different watering schedules for different zones of your lawn. If part of your lawn sees more sun than another part, it’ll need more water, while the shady area can do with less. Steep slopes should be watered more often, but for a shorter time to minimize wasteful runoff.

Don’t Cut Your Grass Too Short

Here’s another tip that won’t cost you a dime. When you mow your lawn, make sure you don’t cut it too low.

For most grasses, around 2” is the recommended cutting height. What this does is it allows the blades of grass to shade the soil beneath it, minimizing evaporation and maximizing retention of more moisture both on and underneath the surface of the soil.

Improved moisture retention means your grass will need less watering. Easy, right?

Check for Leaks

This step is like the water conservation version of making sure your computer is plugged in before you declare it broken. Leaks in your outdoor faucets, hoses, or sprinkler lines are all surefire ways to waste a lot of water.

Inspect your sprinkler system for leaks regularly throughout the summer, or hire a lawn maintenance company to check it. If you find any leaks, you may just need a new hose or new sprinkler heads.

Use a Rain Barrel

This is an affordable option that makes the most of the rainwater that Mother Nature provides us with. Basically, this is just a glorified barrel that you can attach to your gutter drains to collect and store excess storm runoff.

When you need to water your lawn you can use the stored rainwater, which has the extra perk of being free of things like calcium, chlorine, and lime that you might find in your city water.

Getting water from a rain barrel into a sprinkler system is a big project — here’s a set of instructions if you’re feeling like Mr. Handyman.

For a simpler project, you can use the water in your rain barrel by filling water cans to manually water small parts of your lawn that are under more stress (where your dog pees, for example) and to tend to the garden and outdoor plants.

Install More Efficient Sprinkler Heads

Technology is always improving. And when it comes to sprinkler technology, that means more efficient emitters. Modern designs distribute water more efficiently than older ones.

Consider looking into an upgrade — the investment may pay for itself in water savings in just a few seasons.

Invest in a Rain-Shutoff Controller

If you’re planning to go out of town for a week or longer this summer and aren’t sure how much it’ll rain, you may set your sprinkler system to water every other day to be safe.

But if it ends up raining every day of the week while you’re away, you’re not only wasting water, but you could even harm your lawn by overwatering.

That’s why a rain-shutoff controller is a worthwhile investment. It’s a weather-dependent device that uses sensors to determine if your grass needs watering.

Simpler models that fall around $200 check for rainfall and determine whether to run your sprinklers based on that. More refined options that fall around $300+ can use sensors to look at soil moisture, humidity, and more to pull off some extra-efficient sprinkler programming.

Plant a Less Thirsty Grass

If you’ve got a landscape or home renovation project coming up that will lead to re-planting your lawn, this is a great opportunity to choose the right grass for the climate we have here in Boulder County.

Some great options for our area include Blue Grama, Buffalo, and Tall and Fine Fescue grass. Learn more about watering and maintenance tips for different types of lawn grass »