Drought Got You Brown? Don't Double Down

Drought Got You Brown? Don't Double Down

For many homeowners it’s the norm to use more water on their landscapes in July and August. Although the reason seems obvious, the extreme heat is not why customers double their water use in the summer.

Let’s talk about doubling your water bill. Sound like a good idea?

For many homeowners it’s the norm to use more water on their landscapes in July and August. Although the reason seems obvious — hot and dry July and August take a visual toll on grass — that’s not why customers double their water use in the summer.

The reason for the high bill comes down to sprinkler programming: adding a second start time to the existing program so the entire system runs both morning and evening.

As long as it’s on your permitted day, this is perfectly legal. But it has the effect of automatically doubling your water consumption, with a similar effect on your bill.

Instead of running the entire system twice, run only the zones that actually need it. Remember, some sprinklers can run 20 gallons per minute. Before you turn them up, determine which zones actually need more water.

Which are your critical zones? Hint: it’s not all of them. Typically, it’s just the grass in full afternoon sun that’s under the most stress, especially if it’s St. Augustine. This might be a single sprinkler station; an extra 10 minutes here may solve the entire problem by targeting the extra water exactly where it’s needed.

Here’s a few places in the landscape that don’t typically need extra water, even in August:

  • Landscape beds
  • The grass sprinklers in the shade under live oaks
  • The garbage cans and the AC condensers
  • The sides of the house
  • The backyard
  • Drip lines (Remember, drip delivers a week’s worth of water directly to the roots in a single cycle; no need to run these more than once per week.)

All of this saved run time really adds up when it comes to the bill. When in doubt, don’t change your program. If you need help decoding the sprinkler controller, call 704-7283 (704-SAWS) or email us for a FREE consultation.

And remember, if you want a landscape that doesn’t get so crispy in August, it’s better to use shade and landscaping than grass and water. See our list of low water use plants at GardenStyleSA.com for inspiration.

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Brad Wier

About our expert

Brad Wier

Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation consultant. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.