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How to conserve water and still keep your lawn green

lawn sprinkler
Posted at 8:36 AM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-09 10:40:17-04

GILBERT, AZ — We may live in the desert but a lot of people are willing to spend to keep their little patch of green.

A new study shows the greater Phoenix area is one of the most expensive cities when it comes to watering your lawn. About 70% of monthly water bills in this state go to keeping the landscape green.

Comparing the average water bill against the typical yard size, Lawn Love ran the numbers — Phoenix came in second in the nation for shelling out the green to keep your yard green, second only to Fresno, California.

In the Valley, the average yard was 7,817 square feet. Residents pay about $2.37 to water 1,000 square feet, putting the average water bill at $165 - $189 a month.

"Water rates for utilities have gone up 43% and it's the one utility consistently taking off as far as costs go. It even outranks electricity costs," said study publisher Sharon Sullivan.

The study also factored in the type of grass in each city and climate so there's no surprise it's going to cost more to keep the trees green in the desert versus Chicago which was the most affordable city, according to the study.

"You're dealing with some of the biggest droughts, you're dealing with hot days, ranked number one in hot days," says Sullivan.

Here in the Valley, flood irrigation is also an option for some. It's an old watering practice when the Valley was largely farmland. Only about 1% of Salt River Project (SRP) customers do this. It's notably cheaper, costing $140 a year for .20 acres and $363 a year for a full acre. However, it also accounts for about 7% of the utility's water use for a small number of homes.

The City of Gilbert will do free water efficiency check-ups for residents but their advice is sound for any home.

Running Dry: How you can conserve water

The bottom line: the best way to save money and help the environment is to practice simple conservation steps around your home.

  • Fixing leaks is key. "Most commonly we see a ton of leaks in pools and irrigation systems as well," says Gina Damato.
  • Tilted or sunken sprinkler heads can waste water.
  • Don't water on windy days — it evaporates faster, and if you notice a fine mist, that's a sign that you're losing more water than saturating the ground.
  • Pull the weeds so they don't steal water away from the plants.
  • Don't overwater.

The number one mistake the Water Efficiency team sees is overwatering. We should be watering lawns ever three or four days instead of every day and run the sprinklers longer, about five minutes, two to three times on those days.

"We get a lot of surprised faces when we say every three or four days," said Damato, "and the biggest thing is just making sure you're watering deep enough."

Most waste indoors happens in the bathroom. To save water, try to:

  • Take shorter showers
  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth
  • Upgrade to water sense toilets, showerheads, and faucets
  • Think of ways to repurpose the water you're already using. If you're draining pasta, think about catching that water and putting it on a house plant.

The City of Gilbert has a water calculator online where anyone can plug in their family and home size and figure out how much water they should be using.

There's also an in-depth list of ways to conserve on the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association website.