close-up of yellowing grass

Keeping a green lawn is often a priority for homeowners in the United States. In fact, a well maintained lawn is often viewed as a sign of success and a “physical manifestation of the American Dream of home ownership,” as Krystal D’Costa observes in Scientific American.

Keeping a green lawn throughout the warm season gives many homeowners a sense of pride, but what are the costs? Water overuse has drastic environmental impacts.

Water Overconsumption in the U.S.

Each American uses a whopping 88 gallons of water at home every day, which costs the average family more than $1,000 a year. More than 30 percent of that water is used outdoors in lawns and gardens, but it can rise to as much as 60 percent in arid regions.

The EPA says that watering the average-sized U.S. lawn 20 minutes a day for one week is equivalent to leaving the shower running for four days straight. Given that at least one U.S. region undergoes significant drought each year, individuals and industries alike have good reason to minimize unnecessary water consumption habits.

From 2011 to 2017, California experienced a debilitating drought that caused more than 90 percent of the state to experience water deprivation. To ensure enough drinking water, the governor ordered mandatory restrictions requiring residents to cut back on watering lawns, washing cars, and indulging in long showers. 

Go Gold

Water use increases greatly from June to September as warm, dry weather makes its way across the United States and water demand peaks. Excessive outdoor water use intensifies this demand. Many homeowners are making the shift to “go gold” by reducing the amount of watering during those crucial summer months and letting their grass turn from green to a seasonal gold.

Some cities and homeowners’ associations require proper lawn maintenance and green grass, but more and more green-minded municipalities are adopting the “go gold” model, saving tons of valuable water. If yours isn’t on board yet, convince them.

Cutting back on personal water use not only saves money, it benefits the environment by diverting less water from our rivers, bays, and estuaries. It lowers energy demand for pumping and treating water and reduces air pollution from busy wastewater treatment plants.

More Ways to Cut Down

If going gold isn’t on your to-do list, there are more options to reduce outdoor water use:

  • Maintain Water Systems
    Nearly half of the water we use in our yards is lost from wind, evaporation, and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation systems, wasting more than 25,000 gallons of water each year. If you have an irrigation system at home — or even just a sprinkler — make sure to properly maintain it and check for leaks.
  • Use Native Plants 
    Because plants thrive in their native climate, they require minimal maintenance. They need less water, fertilizer, and pesticides to grow. Climate-appropriate landscaping uses less than half the water of a traditional landscape.
  • Go Grass-Free
    Who says houses need a bright green lawn? Think outside the box and create a grass-free landscaping design for your yard. Use things like beauty bark, native plants, and polished stones to spruce things up and virtually eliminate outdoor water needs.

Clean water is essential for life on Earth. Consider human and environmental health next time you reach for the hose.

Feature image by Couleur at

By Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.