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Saving Water Outdoors

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Whether it’s for irrigation, gardening or recreation, the change in seasons brings increased outdoor water usage. Up to 50% of water used for midday irrigation is lost through evaporation and runoff. Here are a few tips to help conserve water outdoors all year long.


  • Conduct an irrigation assessment to determine uniformity and make sure you’re not overwatering. Also, observe your irrigation system to ensure it’s not watering streets or sidewalks.
  • Install a rain sensor that turns off your system during rainy weather.
  • Consider upgrading to a smart controller that automatically adjusts your irrigation schedule based on soil moisture and weather.
  • Water at the right time and only when needed. The best times to water are in the early morning and in the evening when winds are calm and the temperature is cool. This reduces water loss from evaporation. Also, allowing the soil to dry between watering allows plants to develop stronger, deeper roots.
  • Mulch! Mulch maintains soil moisture, prevents weeds, reduces soil erosion and can help improve soil quality as it decomposes. Maintain a 2-3” layer around trees, shrubs and bedding plants. Avoid over-layering around trees to discourage trunk rot.
  • Consider redesigning your landscape and garden to make it more drought resistant. This is an attractive option that requires less water.
  • When you go out of town, make sure someone is keeping an eye on your irrigation system.


  • Continue regular irrigation maintenance, checking for leaks and overwatering.
  • Adjust your irrigation timer to follow watering restrictions. Watering too frequently produces shallow roots, while watering less frequently produces stronger roots.
  • Consider installing drip or micro irrigation in your flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and containers to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
  • Start a compost bin. Use leaves, vegetable scraps and twigs in alternating green and brown layers. Bins can be made out of old trashcans, chicken wire or wood pallets, or purchased at retail stores. Compost increases your soil’s water- and nutrient-holding capacity.
  • Let your grass grow dormant. If it turns brown, don’t worry. That’s just how it survives hot, dry summers.
  • Raise the blade on your mower to at least 2.5-3” high for bermudagrass and 3-4’’ for tall fescue. This will reduce the need for water.
  • Wash your car on the grass or gravel so it will soak into the ground rather than running down the storm drain. Instead of leaving the water running, use a bucket and a nozzle with an automatic shutoff to reduce wasted water. Typical garden hoses use 5-10 gallons per minute!Be weather aware. If you don’t have a rain sensor or smart controller, check weather forecasts and shut off your irrigation system when rain is in the forecast. 


  • In the fall, plants require less water. Adjust your system accordingly.
  • Thinking about overseeding your yard? Over-seeding warm-season lawns, such as Bermudagrass, with cool-season grasses, such as perennial rye grass in the fall can provide a beautiful landscape until spring in Oklahoma. However, from a water conservation standpoint, landscaping experts don’t recommend over-seeding with perennial ryegrass.  An over-seeded lawn will require more irrigation because of the water needs of cool-season grasses versus the reduced water requirements of dormant warm-season grasses. When establishing new lawns in the fall, residents are encouraged to apply for a short-term watering variance. It will allow daily irrigation of new sod or over-seeded grasses for 30 days without risk of a citation.
  • To prepare for winter and freezing conditions, turn off water, drain valves and blow out excess water in the lines with compressed air.
  • Disconnect, drain, coil and store garden hoses to reduce wear.
  • Check your water usage history for unusual changes that may signal leaks or other wasteful problems.


  • Tree roots continue to grow during the winter. If extended dry spells are experienced, consider hand watering your trees once a month.
  • Check your lawn. Warm-season grasses go dormant during winter months, but they still require adequate moisture. Irrigate your lawn in the morning during warmer winter days to avoid winter kill if dry conditions persist.
  • Turn off sprinklers during freezing temperatures which can result in a fine.