You're wasting water on your lawn. Here's how to stop this summer.

Sprinkler test
A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of metro residents with irrigation systems are using far more water than they need.
Nick Cote for MPR News

If you live in the Twin Cities metro, you're probably over-watering your lawn.

More than 60 percent of metro residents with irrigation systems are using far more water than they need, according to a recent University of Minnesota Extension survey.

Most home irrigation systems are in the Minneapolis and St. Paul suburbs, and most of those systems aren't working properly, the survey of more than 900 residents found.

For example: 75 percent of systems had at least one leaking sprinkler head.

Many systems just weren't watering how they should. Homes surveyed were watering, on average, 500 square feet of impervious surfaces like streets or sidewalks. Sprinklers often run too often, or when unnecessary like after a rain.

Water is an increasingly precious resource as more of the supply becomes polluted and droughts and shortages become more prevalent.

Even though it may seem like a tiny amount of water wasted on lawns, it all adds up. Pumping excess water wastes energy, too.

How to get your system working again

Lawns need about an inch of water each week, according to Sam Bauer, a turf grass specialist at the U.

That amount includes both watering and rainfall. To make sure you're not using too much water, use the irrigation system's sensor. Systems installed in the past 15 years should have a sensor that can account for rain.

Bauer also recommends people have their irrigation or sprinkler systems' efficiency checked annually. Early data from the survey showed that half of home irrigation systems have never been audited for wasting water.

Lawns are healthier when they don't get too much water: more water means shallower root systems. And shallower roots make grass more vulnerable to weather stresses and pests like certain bugs and weeds.

Get pumped to conserve

Ready to get serious about saving water on your lawn? University of Minnesota Extension offers a bunch of solid recommendations on its website. Here are a few:

Be smart about the weather. It's not uncommon in Minnesota summers to get heavy rainfall followed by drought, so homeowners shouldn't rely on a "set it and forget it" irrigation schedule that's often programmed into automatic systems.

Fescue to the rescue. Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and tall fescue are among Minnesota's most popular lawn choices. Fine fescues simply use less water and tall fescue has a deep root system able to access more moisture.

Design landscapes for water conservation. Choose drought-tolerant plants for dry areas. Mulch garden beds to retain soil moisture and reduce weeds. Retain water on-site using rain barrels, raingardens, and planted slopes.

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