Hero Image

Water-Saving Tips for the Home Garden

Checking your irrigation system periodically to reduce leaks and help conserve water usage. Photo: L Stiles
Checking your irrigation system periodically to reduce leaks and help conserve water usage. Photo: L Stiles

Almost a third of Marin County’s water is used for irrigation.
The majority of Marin residents use around 8,000 gallons or less of water per month. Although this sounds like a massive quantity of water, consider this: 10 sprinkler heads running for 20 minutes can easily spew out more than 1,000 gallons of water. Here's how to conserve water in your garden.

Monitor your water bills

Learn how to check your water meter to determine if there is a leak. Credit: Marin Municipal Water District
Learn how to check your water meter to determine if there is a leak. Credit: Marin Municipal Water District
Determine if you have any water leaks. Learn how to check your water meter if you receive an unexpectedly high water bill. It could indicate a leak.

Use drip irrigation

It's the best way to keep your garden hydrated with the least amount of water. 

Tune up your system 

Check irrigation periodically. Irrigation systems require maintenance. At least once a month, turn each of your irrigation stations on manually and observe what’s happening in the garden.

Check for:
• Leaks. A geyser or the sound of rushing water under a shrub may indicate a missing drip emitter or spray head. Identify any leaky valves or broken wiring.
• Misdirection. Correct any tilted, blocked, sunken, or misdirected spray heads.
Blocked lines. Correct any pinched drip tubing.
Broken components, mismatched heads or nozzles and uneven spacing. These are the most common irrigation problems. When water is not applied uniformly, wet and dry spots develop.

Expand drip lines to encourage roots to grow out of driplines as the plant matures.

Check water pressure 

High pressure can damage drip systems and cause spray heads to mist, losing water to evaporation. The result is wasted water, higher water bills, and damaged system components.

Low water pressure diminishes the performance of your irrigation system. 

Appropriate pressures are:
• Household use: 40-80 pounds per square inch (psi)  
• Drip irrigation: 15-25 psi 
• Sprayers: 25-30 psi 
• Rotor and impact sprayers: 40-50 psi 

Adjust watering schedules 

Different seasons have different watering requirements - Gardens need the most water in July when days are long. As day length shortens, cut back irrigation time. 

Experiment with time and duration - 
Try cutting back on watering times by 10 percent and observe plants for signs of stress. Most irrigation times and frequencies can be reduced by 20 to 40 percent with little to no effects on landscaping.

Sign up
for the Marin Municipal Water District’s (MMWD) weekly watering schedule e-mail or contact North Marin Water District (NMWD) for a free water smart home survey.


Reduce lawn area 

Grass is thirsty. Conventional turf grass requires more than 20,000 gallons of water per year per 1,000 square feet. If you aren't using your lawn, consider reducing or replacing it.

Lawn alternatives include native sods, groundcovers and other ornamental grasses that require less water, and maintenance. Check out our list of walkable lawn alternatives

Get paid to remove your lawn. Marin's water districts sometimes offer cash incentives for removing your lawn. See below.

Grow plants with low-water needs. There are many easy-care California natives and plants from other summer-dry climates that are beautiful, need minimal irrigation, and attract beneficial wildlife. Don't know what to grow? Use our plant lists.

Mulch, mulch, mulch! Maintaining a two to three-inch layer of mulch conserves water, suppresses weeds, and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. 

Prioritize during periods of drought 

Care for your mature and valuable plants first before planting anything new.

Take advantage of water conservation rebates and incentives. In addition to cash incentives to replace your lawn, Marin's water districts may offer other rebates and incentives. Learn more at MMWD and NMWD.

Invite a Master Gardener to your garden

Do you have questions about your garden water usage? Marin Master Gardeners are here to help! 

Marin-Friendly Garden Walks is a free service available to all Marin residents through a partnership between UC Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District. The goal is to provide Marin homeowners with information and advice on improving their irrigation practices to help conserve Marin’s precious water resources. For more information, and to schedule a Garden Walk, please visit our Marin-friendly Garden Walks page.