Saving Water From the Outside In

How many loads of laundry or dishes could you do with the water from a single cycle of your irrigation system? These shocking comparisons will have you saving water (and money) in no time.

One of the most common statements I hear from customers during irrigation consultations is how conscientious they are of water use because they always turn off the water while brushing their teeth. While having a conservative ethic indoors is always a good thing, many people don’t realize that’s only half the battle.

In fact, 55 percent of all residential water in San Antonio is used outdoors. So why might people be discounting the water used in their landscaping? For one, it can be hard to see and quantify. So I thought it might be helpful to compare running an irrigation system to common indoor household uses.

While the water a sprinkler system uses can vary widely based on its size, nozzle types, state of repair and programming, a typical cycle spews about 2,000 gallons of water. Ever wonder how that compares to your indoor water use?

Here’s what one day of watering your lawn with an in-ground sprinkler system equates to inside your home:

  • Brushing your teeth with the water on for more than 22 hours straight. The average bathroom sink uses about 1.5 gallons per minute. An irrigation system can use 15 gallons or more per minute.
  • Washing 64 loads of laundry. Washing machines use, on average, about 31 gallons to wash one load of clothes.
  • Flushing your toilet five times a day for 154 days. Toilets use on average 2.6 gallons of water per flush. So you could flush your toilet 769 times on the water used during one irrigation cycle!
  • Taking a 13-hour shower. Showers use on average 2.5 gallons per minute
  • Running your dishwasher 333 times. Dishwashers use about 6 gallons of water each load.

For these comparisons I used averages; new water-efficient appliances and fixtures use as little as half these averages. Across the city each SAWS customer uses about 1,500 to 2,000 gallons of water indoors every month. If you do the math, a typical sprinkler system set to run a conservative schedule can easily use as little water outdoors per month as a family of four would use indoors. That’s why so much of our conservation efforts are focused on water used in landscapes; it’s the low hanging fruit.

If you’re interested in saving water and money, the true savings can be found by altering or eliminating your irrigation system. Call 210-704-SAVE to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable conservation consultants — we love helping people save water. And never fear, there is a wide variety of attractive drought-tolerant plants that thrive on rain water alone!

Picture of Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell is a conservation planner for SAWS. He is enthusiastic about grass taxonomy and milkweed propagation. In his free time, Powell enjoys hiking around area parks in search of intriguing bugs, birds and plants.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.