Outdoor Conservation Tips

General Outdoor Tips

  • Make sure you know where your master water shut-off valve is located.
  • Teach your family how to shut off your automatic watering systems. Turn sprinklers off if the system is malfunctioning or when a storm is approaching. This could save gallons of water and damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.
  • Winterize outdoor spigots when temps dip to 20º F to prevent pipes from bursting or freezing.
  • If you own an evaporative cooling system, be sure and check it annually for higher efficiency. Also, direct the water drain to a flowerbed, tree, or your lawn.
  • Make sure your fountains and ponds are equipped with recirculating pumps to recycle the water used.
  • Install covers on pools and spas and check for leaks around your pumps, especially if you have an automatic refilling device.
  • When backwashing your pool, consider using the water on your landscaping.
  • Check your water meter and bill to track your water usage.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk and save up to 80 gallons of water every time.
  • Use porous materials for walkways and patios to keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.
  • Avoid installing ornamental water features and fountains that spray water into the air. Trickling or cascading fountains lose less water to evaporation.
  • Don't buy recreational water toys that require a constant flow of water.
  • When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.
  • Bathe your pets outdoors in an area in need of water.
  • Use a hose nozzle and turn off the water while you wash your car.
  • Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • Report significant water losses from broken pipes, fire hydrants or errant sprinklers to the property owner.


  • Don't forget to check outdoor faucets, pipes, and hoses for leaks. The City offers free audits to detect any unnecessary water use; for more information on this program, visit the link Free Water Use Surveys.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
  • Use the sprinkler for larger areas of grass. Water small patches by hand to avoid waste.
  • Use sprinklers that throw big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist often evaporate before they hit the ground.
  • Install a rain shut-off device on your automatic sprinklers to eliminate unnecessary watering.
  • Avoid planting turf in areas that are hard to water such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways; however when watering grass on steep slopes is unavoidable, use a soaker to prevent wasteful runoff.
  • Plant during the spring or fall when the watering requirements are lower.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering during the early morning hours, when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal weather conditions and landscape requirements.
  • Buy a rain gauge to track how much rain or irrigation your yard receives. Check with your local water agency to see how much rain is needed to skip an irrigation cycle.
  • Divide your watering cycle into shorter periods to reduce runoff and allow for better absorption every time you water.
  • Only water your lawn when needed.
  • Use a screwdriver as a soil probe to test soil moisture. If it goes in easily, don't water. Proper lawn watering can save thousands of gallons of water annually.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. Longer grass shades root systems and holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.
  • Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and allow leaf litter to accumulate on top of the soil. This keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs and trees to apply water directly to the roots where it's needed.
  • Install grey water systems and support projects that use reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses.


  • Choose a low water use plant for year-round landscape color and save gallons of water each year.
  • More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Be sure only to water plants when necessary.
  • Landscape with Xeriscape trees, plants and groundcovers. For a list of water conserving plants, garden tours and galleries and other landscaping conservation tips visit the following website provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA):
  • Group plants with the same watering needs together to get the most out of your watering time.


  • Direct downspouts and other runoff towards shrubs and trees, or collect and use for your garden.
  • Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  • While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Start a compost pile. Using compost when you plant adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.