That Giant Sucking Sound is Your Sprinkler Running Dry


There’s nothing we like more than turning to a geeky, policy-wonk report for our gardening tips.  All right, so the pictures may not be much to look at, but the charts and graphs offer fodder for hours of stimulating cocktail party talk.  Such as:

  • Outdoor watering accounts for 42% of all residential water use.
  • Las Vegas has been able to reduce water use by 76% by offering a ‘cash for grass’ initiative that rewards people for converting from turf to low-water choices.
  • California lawns are still dominated by thirsty cool-season turf grasses even though more drought-tolerant options are available.
  • Population trends show that the growth in California will be happening in hotter, inland areas, where water use is even higher.
  • The forecasted increase in outdoor watering in California–if no changes are made–is 1.2 million acre feet per year, enough to provide water to 4.8 million people.

What to do?  Why, the Public Policy Institute of California has plenty of ideas.

  • Use muti-tiered pricing to make water more expensive to use beyond a family’s basic needs.
  • Use "smart" irrigation devices that know when to shut off based on weather patterns and other information.
  • Encourage water-wise planting, either through ordinances or incentive programs or both.
  • Get people to cut back on turf where they don’t use it, "such as front lawns and median strips."

Read the full report here.


  1. it kills me when governments feel like there’s nothing more important than involving themselves in our gardens.

    viva la gardening freedom!

  2. I garden in San Francisco. Our water department charges us more for sewer than water. They compute the bill based on an assumption that the water that comes out of the faucets ends up in the sewer, because that’s what they directly measure–the water you consume, not the sewage you produce.

    This assumption leaves out a consideration of garden water which doesn’t go into the sewer. It turns out, they will adjust their billing computation for customers who garden to account for less sewer usage. We requested an adjustment, and a guy from the water department came out to see my garden. (And back then, it was mostly lawn. Now however it’s mostly drought-tolerant natives that I very rarely water.)

    So, that just shows you where the water department’s priorities are in California right now. In the sewer.

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