Should Minnesotans water their yards less?

Per capita daily water use

Household water use tends to be greater in outlying suburbs than elsewhere in the Twin Cities. Because lawn watering makes up a huge portion of water use, the figures depend heavily on lot size, tree cover and other factors. Click for details on each city. Most cities with more than 10,000 people are included. Figures are based on city reports to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which can be inconsistent. St. Paul, for example, doesn’t include most apartment dwellers in the residential total it reports, lowering the per-capita use figure. Several other cities contacted by MPR News said they also include bigger apartment buildings in the “commercial” reporting category rather than residential. DNR officials say they are trying to standardize the way cities report the data to get a more accurate picture of residential water use. Golden Valley, New Hope and Columbia Heights get their water from Minneapolis but the rates for Minneapolis shown on the map do not account for use in those cities.

“I don’t know that we’re at a point where we can’t have lawns, but as we watch the trends and the water supply and where our water is coming from, we might want to be more careful,” said Dave Leuthe, a water conservation specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Residential water use varies widely in the Twin Cities. Andover, an Anoka County suburb of 30,000, is the biggest per capita user, according to an MPR News analysis of data the DNR collects from cities. In the five years ending in 2012, Andover residents used about 120 gallons of water a day, twice the amount Minneapolis residents use, for example.

That kind of discrepancy among cities makes lawn watering a prime target when Leuthe and other officials talk about conserving groundwater.

Read the rest of this story from MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar

Today’s Question: Should Minnesotans water their yards less?

  • kevins

    I would like to see a ban on watering established lawns. The grass can go dormant and cycle back to life when nature lets it. Woops..I guess there goes my yard of the week nomination!

  • Jim G

    Yes. I’ve owned four houses. One came with an automated irrigation system. During the first summer in that house I had the greenest lawn on the block. Also, I probably used more water than anyone else. It took all summer of playing with the controls, but eventually I learned to limit watering to a minimum and still maintain a hint of green. However, the old adage still applied: “If you have it, you’ll use it.” Now I’m back to hoses. Hauling hoses around the yard is good exercise and I’ve reduced my watering mostly to the gardens.

  • John

    We won’t quit wanting green lawns, but we can do a whole lot better than now. Toward the end of the article it said “lawns don’t need drinking water.” How many of us living on lakes actually pump water for the lawn from the lake? We have done it this way at our cabin since the 1960s. With so much surface water in this state, that’s part of the answer. Not watering until the lawn really needs it is another rule that is ignored. Right after our 4 inch rain, a townhouse association, several big box retailers near us were watering. Where I live, there has been an inch of rain a week since the growing season started, and I haven’t watered the lawn yet.

    It’s great that you guys are focusing on the groundwater issue. It’s a tremendous series.

  • Gary F

    I think the government should start regulating our baths and showers too. The government knows what is best for me.

    Still, all this talk about water usage and groundwater and no talk about ethanol subsidies.

    • Ralphy

      Umm, they already do. Shower heads have a code limited output, I think it’s 1.5 GPM.
      I agree that the elephant in the room is ethanol production. We all saw what happened to TPaw’s presidential bid when he dared raise that issue.

  • JDan

    It is about priorities. I think that a cultural change would be better than a law.

  • Joe

    Minnesotans should return to having property that is covered in indigenous prairie grass.

    • Gary F

      And wild roaming buffalo

      • Joe

        Yes please!

  • KTN

    Don’t really have an opinion on the questioned as posed, but I do think that if we chose to water our lawns we probably can stop using tap water to do so.

  • Ralphy

    Should Minnesotan’s water their lawns less?
    Only if they want healthier lawns.
    (Ditto for chemically treating lawns.)

    • Paul

      Yep. Proper soil care leads to better, healthier, thicker, weed-free lawns which use much less water (including rain and water barrel water). The place to start is eliminating chemical fertilizers (those are just crack, supercharged top growth while weakening the roots). And it is much safer for pets and us.

      And mow higher and water less frequently and deeper, morning only. Uses less water and promotes strong, healthy roots.

  • JQP

    yes.. .get past the watering ( with drinking water) and mowing with fossill-fuels paradigm.
    Water less , mow less.
    Get used to brown.

  • Roseville

    My God, what’s with Andover?? And then those blue ‘burbs?

    Well, lawns are in part a cultural aesthetic that can be chosen. Nature provides us with so much beauty to choose from in so many different forms and ecosystems that we needn’t have ugly lawns to be responsible in our water use.

    Best we start now so we’re ahead of the game when nature turns off this wetness.

    • Gary F

      NW suburbs is very sandy soil so it doesn’t hold the water.

  • PaulJ

    It’d look nicer if lawns were watered more. Just think of the resources we could save if all esthetics were eliminated.

  • Lisa J

    Excess watering is BAD for lawns. It promotes a shallow root structure & makes it difficult for grass to endure drought. There is nothing more disgusting to me to see automatic sprinkler systems on while it’s raining, just because that’s how it’s programmed! I think there should be a ban to limit excessive watering which promotes fast-growning lawns that also increase noise pollution because of the need to mow more often. It’s a really bad cycle.

  • Jamie

    I’ve lived with well water almost my entire life, so when discussing this issue with a friend, I was surprised to find out that my solution of tiered pricing for water is already in place – at least in his city. The first gallons are cheaper up to a ceiling, then the next gallons are at a higher rate up to another ceiling, then the rest of your water usage is at the highest tiered price. Seems like a good solution allowing drinking water for a very reasonable price and charging more for over-usage.

  • Erik

    Yes, and that goes for businesses too. We’ve (obviously) had a lot of rain in Minnesota lately, yet every time I drive by (for example) my local Wells Fargo, they’ve got their sprinklers on. So ridiculous (and wasteful).