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The ins and outs of residential water savings

Water conservation is becoming increasingly important, especially in periods of extended drought like our friends in Southern California are experiencing. There are simple and effective ways you can significantly reduce water consumption at your home and benefit both your household and the wider community.

1) Swap your faucet aerators for models rated at 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM) at the kitchen sink and 1.0 GPM in the bathroom. Traditional faucets use 2.2 GPM.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these efficient aerators offer water savings of 32 to 45 percent.

2) If the average family replaced its high-flow toilet with a high-efficiency toilet, water use could be reduced up to 60 percent. That’s nearly 13,000 gallons of water saved per year! It’s also important to periodically test your toilet flapper for leaks. Simply drop some food coloring in the tank and see if it appears at the bottom of the bowl. If it does, pick up a new toilet flapper the next time you’re at the hardware store. They’re inexpensive and you can install them yourself.

Landscape with drought-tolerant plants like this yellow yarrow to save water. (Photo: DNV GL/iStock)

Landscape with drought-tolerant plants like this yellow yarrow to save water. (Photo: DNV GL/iStock)

3) Replace your turf with drought -tolerant plants. Green lawns aren’t meant for every climate and landscape, and native, drought-tolerant plants use a small fraction of the water green lawns need. According to the EPA Water Sense website, the average home uses 320 gallons a day to water its lawn. Reduce that usage by up to 70 percent by making the switcheroo.

For folks not ready to take the more radical steps and rip out the green, green grass, focus your efforts on your watering system. In the spring when you first wake your sprinklers from hibernation (or once every couple months for those in the warm climes), pop each zone on to investigate any issues. Here are the usual suspects you’re looking to identify and fix.

  • Broken sprinkler heads/lateral pipes:  This will be a gusher, wasting tons of water and the grass will suffer from not receiving any of it. Do some digging and fix immediately.
  • Incorrect spray pattern:  Overspray on sidewalks and driveways not only wastes the agua, but also deteriorates your pavement.  Adjust sprinkler heads accordingly to water only the desired area.
  • Clogged sprinkler nozzles: Super common and easy to fix, use a flathead screwdriver and do a quick clean-out of each nozzle. If you’re unable to clear ’em out, make sure to replace clogged nozzles to prevent brown spots in your lawn.

How long should you water your lawn? Good question. Lawns need a surprisingly small amount of water to stay green and lush, if watered correctly. Water in multiple cycles, called “cycle/soak” periods, to give your lawn time to absorb the water:

  • In the summer, water three days a week, three cycles for each zone for 5 minutes each.
  • In the winter, cut back to two days a week, two cycles for each zone for 5 minutes each.

Grass grows happier and better if it receives water for a few minutes at a time. Give your lawn a nice little drink, give it some time to swallow, and then let it have some more.


Chris Beskid 150x200Chris Beskid is based in DNV GL’s Helena, Montana, office. With DNV GL since 2007, he currently manages the San Diego Gas & Electric Residential Mail-out survey program, performs quality control of residential and small commercial energy audits for several clients, and helps write proposals for new work.  Chris has extensive energy conservation experience helping manage electric, gas and water  energy audit programs throughout the country.  



Mueller Stanley 150x200Stanley Mueller is based in the DNV GL Anaheim, California, office and has been with DNV GL since 2005.  He currently supervises field energy and water conservation staff for Anaheim Public Utilities, Burbank Water & Power, and Southern California Edison. Anaheim Public Utility and Burbank Water & Power are both energy audit programs with a focus on water conservation. Stanley has extensive commercial and residential construction management experience.  

2 Comments Add your comment
Avatar Joe Burns says:

The watering instructions in this article go against everything the mainstream professional say. Shallow watering burns your lawn.
It has always been recommended to water in intervals of 8min. per zone, preferably between 9pm and 4am.

95% of lawns don’t need “time” to absorb water, unless they are highly clay based, as in ones not professionally created by a planned development, but naturally high clay percentage areas in the burbs and rural areas. Most take it just as fast as you can give it.
Poorly positioned spray nozzles are the problem in urban areas, the ones that water the sidewalk.

The largest problem is that “basic” auto sprinkler timers do not offer;
Moister sensing/auto off on rainy days.
An easy way to switch from Summer and Winter schedules.

With today’s technology that should be a no-brainer. They shouldn’t be gouging the lower and middle-classes with these expensive features. Affordable “Basic” timers on every low and middle class house, with those two features would end the drought problem.

I’m glad I found this blog, I thought I was the only one making a relevant argument about saving water, I like your perspective how to manage water savings with irrigation and finding leaks. I did blog about how much energy and money we can save by saving water. https://electricityexpress.com/lower-electric-bill-hot-water/ . Most of us don’t see the relation between water consumption and energy waste. Somehow we need to create a social conscious, several ways to save our planet.

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