Drought in Minnesota: How to conserve water at home

Low water levels in a creek.
Water levels in Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis on Wednesday are noticeably lower than normal due to the ongoing drought.
Tim Evans | MPR News

Hot and dry weather has led to drought conditions across most of Minnesota, forcing communities including Minneapolis and St. Paul to restrict water use. 

Water conservation consultant Carmelita Nelson from the Department of Natural Resources said the state’s growing population and increasing demand for water is putting stress on water sources. During a drought, water levels in rivers and streams go down, affecting recreation as well as the health of fish and other wildlife. A drought also increases the risk of wildfires.  

“If we don’t get rain, we’re likely to see some fires,” Nelson said. “We’re seeing the smoke from other states and countries already, but they could easily happen here in Minnesota.”

Everyone can take steps, inside and outside their homes, to save water during a drought. Here are some guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

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In the bathroom:

  • Gallons of water can be saved by taking shorter showers. You can try setting a timer and showering for five minutes or less. 

  • Shower water can be turned off for shampooing, and turned back on to rinse.

  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch extra water for watering plants.

  • Do not leave the water running while brushing teeth or shaving.

  • Do not flush the toilet when it’s not necessary. 

  • Place dead insects in the trash can rather than flushing them

In the laundry room:

  • Run washing machines only when they are full.

  • If smaller amounts of laundry must be done, set the water level to match the size of the load.

  • Wash with cold water.

  • Use less detergent with high-efficiency washing machines.

In the kitchen:

  • Run the dishwasher only when it is full.

  • To wash dishes by hand, use a container of water with dish soap and a separate container of rinsing water. Do not leave the water running.

  • Instead of rinsing vegetables under running water, wash them in a pan of water.

  • You can install low-volume faucets that use restrictors and aerators to conserve water.

For cars:

  • If you need to wash your car, take it to a commercial car wash that recycles water.

  • Use shut-off, adjustable nozzles to wash cars in the driveway.

For your lawn and garden:

  • It’s OK to let your grass turn brown during a drought. New, healthy grass will grow back in its place. 

  • Avoid excessive watering. After a heavy rain, lawns don’t need watering for up to two weeks.

  • Use a soil probe to check moisture levels. If soil is moist, there is no need for watering.

  • Adjust sprinklers so they are only pointed at the lawn and not watering streets or sidewalks.

  • Water lawns and gardens early in the morning or later in the evening, when there is less evaporation and the water will better absorb into the soil and roots.

  • Plant drought-resistant grass seed.

  • Water lawns for short periods to eliminate runoff.

  • Clean leaves from sidewalks and driveways with a broom, not a hose.

  • Be sure to turn hoses off and fix leaks. A hose can shed 600 gallons of water in a few hours.

  • Use a rain barrel to water plants.