water Program

Water Saving Tips: Outdoors

You know you can save water by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, “letting it mellow” and taking care not to waste it while cooking and cleaning. But did you know this direct water use only makes up a small portion of all the water you use? There is way more water – also known as virtual water – in the food, goods and services you consume.

Read on to learn how to save water outside (be sure to also check out our tips for reducing your energy use), and take our Water Footprint Calculator to find out how much water you use directly and indirectly each day. 

Lawns and Gardens

  • If you must, water your lawn when it’s cooler – in the early morning or late evening – to reduce water loss from evaporation.
  • Don’t water the lawn on windy days because much of it will be lost to evaporation.
  • Set up your sprinklers so they're not spraying the sidewalk or driveway. Not only does that squander water supplies, it can also wash polluting fertilizers and pesticides into sewer systems.
  • Turn your sprinklers off when rain is expected, and set up a system with rain/moisture sensors if you have automatic sprinklers.
  • Use a drip irrigation system instead of a hose or sprinkler to water your garden, and hand-water your lawn or garden instead of using sprinklers when possible – you could cut your water use in half.
  • Set lawn mower blades one notch higher because longer grass = less evaporation.
  • Don’t let the hose run. Buy a squeeze (pistol grip) nozzle for your hose so you don’t have to use the tap to start and stop the flow.


  • Minimize or eliminate your lawn watering. Plant native species that don’t require additional watering. Grassy lawns might make sense in wet climates, but in dry areas like the south and southwest, they're huge water-wasters.
  • Learn more about xeriscaping.

Rain Barrels

  • Set up a rain barrel under a gutter outside your house. On average, you can catch 4 gallons of water a day (more in really rainy areas) to use for watering the lawn, washing the car, etc. Just don’t drink it, and make sure to keep it covered with a fine-mesh screen so it doesn’t breed mosquitoes. Check your local municipal regulations to see if a rain barrel is allowed.
  • Learn more about rain barrels.
  • Direct gutter downspouts and the water drain line from your air conditioner to a flowerbed, tree base or your lawn.

Swimming Pools and Summer Fun

  • Use a pool cover. Uncovered pools can lose up to a thousand gallons of water from evaporation each month (as well as energy if your pool is heated)!
  • Learn more about swimming pools and evaporation.
  • Keep your pool water cool to reduce evaporation, and keep the water level low to reduce the amount of water lost to splashing.
  • Check your pool for leaks often, and if you find a leak get it fixed as soon as possible.
  • Learn more about swimming pool leaks with this swimming pool water loss calculator.
  • Make sure you’re on a dry part of the lawn that can use the water if you’re going to play with a sprinkler or water toy, and avoid buying toys that require a constant stream of water.

Washing Your Car

  • Use only car washes that conserve and recycle their wash water, if available.
  • Use self-service car washes. They use the least amount of water because they use high-pressure hoses that have a pistol grip and can be turned on and off easily.
  • Don’t leave the hose running when you wash your vehicle. Purchase a squeeze (pistol grip) nozzle for your hose so you don’t have to turn the tap to start and stop the flow.
  • Learn more about washing your car at home.