City Of Greeley

Reduce Lawn Watering Waste

More than 50 percent of residential irrigation water is lost due to evaporation, runoff, over watering. Improper system design, installation or maintenance is generally the reason. One of these problems, excessive runoff, can be easily reduced by following a few simple recommendations.

Runoff is created when sprinkler systems apply water faster than the soil can absorb it. Another cause is misdirected sprinkler heads over spraying paved surfaces.

In addition to water waste concerns, runoff contributes to water pollution. When you use too much fertilizer or apply it at the wrong time; it can wash off your lawn and in to storm drains. Then the water flows, untreated, into our lakes, streams and water ways.

The tips below will help you reduce runoff and waste when you water your lawn.

For Established Lawns

  • Regularly maintain your irrigation system. Check the coverage of sprinkler heads and adjust them if they create run-off on sidewalks and driveways. Repair all broken or leaking sprinkler heads.
  • Use the “cycle and soak” method of watering. Run pop-up spray head sprinklers for 5-7 minutes and then let it soak while you move on to a new area. Then come back and do another short cycle. Cycle times should be separated by 45-60 minutes to allow water to soak in, but not longer than it takes for your system to cycle through the rest of the zones. For example one cycle in the morning and one in the evening is too long.
  • Core aerate every year in spring and/or fall. Core aeration, is the process of making finger sized holes in a lawn and leaving the removed soil cores on the grass. Leave the plugs to break down naturally and top dress aeration holes with compost. This allows nutrients, water and oxygen to reach the roots, where healthy grass originates.
  • Adjust sprinklers to only spray on grass and planted surfaces, not on paved surfaces.
  • If you have sprinklers that spray across the sidewalks, retrofit them. There should be no wasteful overspray on the sidewalk, patio, driveway or street. If there is overspray, replace the nozzle with one that has an appropriate spray pattern (e.g. 180° instead of 360°) or relocate the sprinkler head.
  • Based upon soil characteristics, water will soak into the ground at differing rates. Sandy soils have high (fast) infiltration rates, while clay soils have low (slow) infiltration rates. If the precipitation rate on the sprinkler heads exceeds the soil's infiltration rate, then runoff and erosion occur (especially on slopes). On flat ground, this will also lead to puddling. If your sprinklers' precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate, low precipitation rate heads can be installed, or you can shorten your watering times and use multiple start times (e.g. 3 start times at 5 minutes each at 1-hour intervals instead of 15 minutes all at once). This allows the water to soak into the soil.
  • Consider removing turf along sidewalks if you can't keep it green. Replace with native plants, shrub beds, or mulch.
  • Lay a soaker hose on dry spots and turn it on low, to effectively apply water to problem areas in your yard.
  • Make sure that the water spray from the head is not obstructed by vegetation or other objects. Trim back vegetation or raise the sprinkler heads as needed. This will increase the system's uniformity of coverage.

  • If the spray pattern of a head is distorted, browns spots may develop on the lawn. This may be caused by blockage in the screen or in the nozzle itself, and the head may need to be cleaned. If this does not fix the problem, the nozzle may be worn and needs to be replaced.

  • Schedule an irrigation audit to help determine problems within your irrigation system.

For New Lawns :

  • Amend your soil properly with 4-6 cubic yards of compost per 1000 square feet of area and incorporate it into a minimum depth of 6-8 inches.

  • Avoid planting turf in areas that are hard to water such as steep inclines and isolated narrow (< 8 feet) strips along sidewalks, houses and driveways.

  • Use the areas between grass and paved surfaces as transition areas for shrubs, flowers, and ground covers. These plants get the over spray from sprinklers rather than paved surfaces.

  • Don't design sprinklers to spray across sidewalks.