Most of us use drinking water to grow our lawns, flowers and other plants. On average, we use about two-thirds of our water out doors, most of which goes on lawns. As muchas one-half of the water is wasted through incorrect watering.

If you can answer these questions, you are probably watering correctly.

  1. Do you know how much water you apply each time you irrigate your lawn?
  2. Are you applying the water to your lawn evenly?
  3. Do you know when your lawn needs water?


If you cannot answer these questions, the following three simple steps will help you find the answers and put you on the path to irrigate your lawn correctly.

STEP 1. Check Distribution Uniformity (Pattern) of Your Sprinklers.
Remember, not all sprinklers apply the same amount of water. This is true of automatic, manual, or hose systems. To check the distribution pattern, you will need at least 4 containers. Straight-sided containers like soup cans or milk cartons are fine but shallow tuna cans are too shallow and water splashes out. You may also use special water measuring cups (available from local Utah State University Extension Offices).

A) Place the 4 or more straight-sided containers in a grid pattern over the lawn area to be checked.

B) Run your sprinklers for a period of time (at least 10 minutes) over the lawn. If you have overlapping sprinklers that run at different times, run both sets of sprinklers. Check each container and see if the amount of water in each is about the same. Make a note of those containers (areas) that have more or less water than average. Try the following suggestions to apply water more evenly:

C) After making adjustments, empty the containers and try the test again. Continue to make adjustments and run the test until the system is applying water as evenly as possible.

STEP 2. Determine how long you should run your sprinklers to apply the right amount of water.
Most areas of Utah have average high temperatures of 90° - 100° F. The suggested irrigation application is ½ inch of water each irrigation.

A) In your 4 containers, measure and mark a ½ inch depth. Note that the ½ inch line on the special water measuring cups is just above the measured markings on the side.

B) Turn on your sprinklers and time how long it takes for water to reach the marks in each container. With overlapping sets of sprinklers, split the run time equally between both sets of sprinklers. Figure the average run time for all containers.

C) If you see water running off your lawn, three or more soak cycles are recommended. Irrigate for three or more cycles allowing 1-hour in between each cycle. This will prevent water from running off the lawn.

Example: If your sprinklers take 21 minutes to apply ½ inch of water, you would use three 7-minute cycles. Run your sprinklers for 7 m inutes each cycle and wait one hour in between each cycle.

STEP 3. Set Your Watering Schedule.
Now that you know how long to water each time you irrigate, you need to know how often to irrigate. The following schedule shows how often to irrigate during the growing season.

Irrigation Schedule
Month Interval
Startup until April 30 Once every 6 days
May Once every 4 days
June Once every 3 days
July Once every 3 days
August Once every 3 days
September Once every 6 days
October 1 to Shutdown Once every 10 days

This schedule is based upon average or normal weather conditions. Unusual warm conditions may require an occasional irrigation a day earlier than scheduled. Rain storms or cool periods may allow postponing or skipping an irrigation. Using our weather station network, you can find out what sort of irrigation you should be doing right now!

By following the above suggestions, you will apply the maximum amount of water required by the lawn. You will also use about half of the water the average Utah homeowner uses. This schedule could save you as much as one-fourth of your yearly water usage. Even so, you may still be using more than is necessary. So try to cut back as much as you can!

Download a Residential Watering Guide for your location!