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Home » Budgeting, Eco-Friendly Savings

Watering my Lawn had MULTIPLIED my Total Water Usage!

Last updated by on 9 Comments

This is a long lost post from the 20somethingfinance archives. I wrote it a few years ago, and for whatever reason, it was lost and never published. The dates are old, but the lesson learned is extremely relevant, as we enter the spring and summer seasons.

Because of this lesson learned, we have since dramatically cut our lawn watering, as we have gradually replaced more and more of our lawn with mulched gardens. Grass is horribly inefficient and only looks good 3 months out of the year, max. Replacing with gardens is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment and save money in the process. If you’re interested in more tips like this, check out my recent post on 10 easy ways to save the planet and money.

How Much Does Watering your Lawn Cost?

I knew that watering lawns was a huge waste of water. But I reluctantly chose to do anyways because burnt brown grass looks awful. How much water was I wasting? I just recently found out, and I couldn’t believe it.

I was digging through my water bill this past weekend as I discovered that my city water utility has a nifty little online tool to compare water usage month-by-month, and year by year. I had no intention of finding anything shocking in the analysis, but I did.

cost of watering lawn

Comparing my water usage from May 13 – August 11th, 2010 period to the same period a year ago, I used only 9,724 gallons of water versus a whopping 19,448 last year. Wow! My usage was more than cut in half over the three month periods. Here’s a screenshot:

cost of watering lawn

Drilling down further, I found something even more shocking. The difference was almost entirely from the month of May, 2009.

water_use_from_watering_lawn

My water usage this May fell to 2,251 gallons compared to a relatively ridiculous 8,700 gallons in May of last year. That’s just one-quarter of last year!

Why such a drop?

Then I remembered. I watered my lawn every other day last year because my wife and I chose to lay new sod in my front yard.

What’s more is that I even watered my lawn this May a few times (let’s estimate 3), for a net addition of 12 waterings last year.

And the craziest thing about it is that my front can be completely covered by moving my sprinkler just once. I was only watering for 15 minutes at each location.

The result? Watering my lawn an additional 12 times for a total of 30 minutes each time quadrupled my water usage in one month! Forget the showers, dishes, drinking tap water, the laundry, the toilet flushing, it was all relatively insignificant in comparison.

Making the Decision to Water Your Lawn is About More than Just Actual Cost

How much did all that lawn watering cost me over the month? Maybe $10 or so. Water from utilities in the U.S. is cheap. Ridiculously cheap to the point that cost is typically not a factor (when you drill down into your water bill, sewer and storm water surcharges make up the majority of your total utility cost). Heating water is a whole other story.

The environmental/ethical cost of watering your lawn? That can be a bit more expensive. In order to keep a lawn looking nice, it requires a lot of water and usually expensive fertilizers that are harsh on the environment, and re-seeding. My advice to you: think twice before choosing grass over a garden. And if you have grass, convert to gardens as soon as you can. There could be a whole lot more than your finances riding on it.

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


9 Comments »
  • TC says:

    The cost if you live in a rural area (well &septic) are even less, but the maintenance and upkeep costs certainly skyrocket. The only problem with converting to mostly gardens is that it needs to be done with an exacting eye. If done incorrectly it can look bad and effectively kill your resale value. Remember most buyers are initially drawn to a house based on the look of the front yard and exterior of the house.

  • Jake Erickson says:

    This is definitely interesting. Luckily, we have a pretty tiny yard so I haven’t really noticed an increase in utilities during the summer months, but I’m sure we use quite a bit more. I think the environmental/ethical cost is more important than the $10 extra like you said.

  • Sarah says:

    Lawns are kind of silly, in my opinion. We have a good-sized lot (1/2 acre) but don’t do anything to maintain it other than mow every 1-2 weeks in the spring and summer.

    If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Penn & Teller “Bullshit” episode about lawns. Raises a lot of interesting points about the fuss people make over maintaining their yards.

    http://youtu.be/xuloYX_CHeU?t=24s

  • Reanna says:

    My husband and I live in the desert in Southern California, and we’ve been thinking about water a lot these days. Our town just started piping in water from the Colorado river. Rainwater harvesting is on a lot of people’s minds, and we don’t even get much rain here.

    It’s definitely time to make the big shift from thinking of rainwater as a waste product vs. a resource at the city level, but it’s also something that’s pretty easy to retrofit as an individual.

    My husband did a great blog post tracing the path of rain water falling on a house in LA, and how quickly it’s shunted to the ocean. Check out the Brad Lancaster video at the end of the post. Very inspiring.

    How a Dry City Treats Water Like a Waste Product.

  • Lauren D says:

    We live in south Florida so watering your lawn is a year round event. Also, our neighborhood is pretty well maintained by home owners so we like having out front yard look appealing too. My husband takes great pride in having an immaculate lawn.
    Fortunately we are able to do this at a fraction of the cost compared to our neighbors. Our sprinkler system and hoses are on well water! Like clockwork our water bill is $33 a mont;, our neighbors without a well pay over $150. The previous owners had decided to close up the well, probably because of the smell. Our well is not stinky at all! We’re very happy with are green and I expensive lawn! :-)

  • Kim says:

    We live in Central Florida (aka land of sinkholes) and refuse to water our grass. Our neighbors water their St. Augustine lawn during the middle of the day (it mostly evaporates with the heat) and on days where our water restrictions forbid it, and they aim the sprinklers towards the road, it’s outrageous! We put a lot of personal value on the water resources in Florida b/c it’s our main source of recreation (we <3 snorkeling in the natural springs) and can't justify wasting that water on our grass when the state is in a drought and firefighters need that water a lot more than my front yard. And to state the obvious, if it can't grow naturally in Florida with the abundant rainfall we have already, maybe it shouldn't be growing in our yard anyway regardless of the cheap $/kgal.

  • RNT says:

    Gardens can take alot of water, too, if you don’t pay attention to what you are planting. The trick is designing a yard/landscape that matches the climate where you live. I live in southwestern Montana, so it actually makes sense for us to plant fescue grass, which is a native grass to this area, and which requires no water other than what the natural environment supplies. Same with our plantings – all the shrubs and trees we chose for our yard are native species that naturally grow here and require zero upkeep. We do have two rainbarrels that catch water, and if it gets too droughty and hot, we just use that water to give everything a drink. That means no water coming from our city utility.

    If you really want a sustainable yard, plant natives!

  • Love this! Watering your lawn is dumb on nearly every level. Usually grass won’t grow without water because it’s not evolutiontarily supposed to be growing there. We have a small patch that will someday be turned into landscaping. Unfortunately the only thing more expensive than watering a lawn is replacing it with something else.

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