25 Ways to Save Water Without Getting Rid of Your Natural Grass Lawn

Paving Stone Walkway with Grass and Low-Water Plants

Homeowners are ditching their natural grass lawns and opting for low-maintenance, water-saving, eco-friendlier options in droves, but not all homeowners are ready to take this step.

Because conventional lawns are responsible for the majority of water used in residential landscaping, replacing them is an obvious choice for homeowners concerned about the California drought and their family’s water usage.

This is one reason we are seeing a growing trend towards front yards and backyards with grass alternatives that are more visually appealing, more functional and easier to maintain.

Some homeowners are opting for decorative rocks and gravel, some are choosing native plants and mulch, and some are replacing their natural lawns with artificial turf.

Others are expanding their outdoor living areas with hardscape options, like paving stone patios and composite decks, or making their yards more fun and functional by adding synthetic grass putting greens, playgrounds, chicken coops or urban farms.

There are plenty of reasons (water related and otherwise) to let go of your natural lawn and transform your yard into a grass-free paradise, but if you are not quite ready to take this step, there are lots of other ways you can reduce your water usage.


25 Ways to Save Water and Keep Your Natural Grass Lawn


1. Ease Up on the Fertilizer

It may seem counterintuitive, but natural grass lawns that are fertilized more than necessary actually require more water and can be more affected by drought conditions.

Ease up on the fertilizer to help your grass survive the drought better.

2. Aerate Your Lawn Regularly

Aeration promotes deeper root growth, which results in a lawn that more efficiently uses water.

Aeration also allows better water absorption.

3. Let It Grow

Longer blades of grass lead to less water wasted through evaporation, so setting your mower even just one notch higher can help you save water.

4. Water and Wind Do Not Mix

Never water natural grass on windy days, which leads to wasted water through excessive evaporation that could have been avoided.

Wait until the wind dies down, or wait to water your lawn another day.

Paving Stone Patio

5. Abide by Mandatory Water-Use Restrictions

California is in a serious drought, and mandatory water-use restrictions are designed to encourage all residents to do their part to use water more responsibly.

Find your local water-use restrictions here:

6. Sharpen Your Mower Blades

Grass that is torn by mowers or edgers that are not in good repair gets stressed out from this damage.

Stressed grass requires more water, which leads to water waste that could have been avoided by keeping lawn care tools well maintained.

7. Install Automatic Irrigation

No list of water conservation lawn care tips is complete without recommending an automatic sprinkler system, which can make your life easier and is a better option for the environment.

You can set your sprinkler schedule to coincide with the watering days assigned to you under your local water-use restrictions.

8. Install a Rain Detector

It is not enough to just install an automatic sprinkler system; you should really consider going one step farther to also install a shut-off device that detects rain and automatically shuts off your sprinklers to save water.

9. Water in Shorter Sessions

If you set your timer to divide your watering time into shorter sessions, you can avoid unnecessary runoff that wastes water.

For example, set your timer to water your lawn for half of the time you normally would, take a ten to fifteen minute break, and then water it again.

10. Inspect and Repair Your Sprinkler System Regularly

Broken sprinklers and leaks can go undetected for long periods of time if you do not inspect your irrigation system regularly.

Taking care of your sprinklers can help you save water and money on your water bill.

11. Properly Adjust Sprinkler Heads

Make sure your sprinkler heads are properly adjusted to avoid watering sidewalks, driveways, walkways, porches, patios and other hardscape features that do not need water.

12. Leave the Clippings

When we cut our lawns and remove the clippings, our lawns lose more water to evaporation.

You can help avoid this excessive evaporation by leaving the clippings on your lawn, which also helps the soil retain moisture and returns nutrients to your lawn.

13. Use Mulch Everywhere

Mulch or compost (which you can make in your backyard) is a great way to help soil retain moisture, limit weed growth and save water.

Place a thick layer of mulch around trees, in flowerbeds, around the plants in your vegetable garden and anywhere else in your yard where you have living things that require water.

14. Expand Your Hardscapes

Attractive paving stone patios, decorative gravel walkways, composite decks and river rock sitting walls are all hardscape options that make your yard more attractive, more functional and more enjoyable.

Since these landscaping features require no water, they are an even better idea for homeowners who want to reduce their environmental impact without taking away from their yards’ overall visual appeal.

Expand Hardscapes with Paving Stone Patios

15. Resist the Urge to Rinse Down Hardscapes

It can be incredibly tempting to quickly wash away dirt and debris by hosing down walkways, driveways and patios; however, this is also a quick way to waste thousands of gallons of water each year.

You can burn some calories, conserve water and keep your hardscape looking clean and appealing by investing in a good broom and sweeping away the dirt instead.

16. Invest in a Swimming Pool Cover

If you have a natural grass lawn and a swimming pool, you may need to work a bit harder to balance your desire for these features with your need to be a good environmental steward.

One thing you can do is invest in a swimming pool cover to limit evaporation.

This single step can save thousands of gallons of water each year.

17. Lower Your Pool’s Water Level

If you have children, pets or guests who love to jump, dive and play in your swimming pool, you are likely losing a lot of water from all of the splashing.

If you lower your swimming pool’s water level just a bit, you can limit the amount of water that is splashed out during vigorous play.

18. Start a Backyard Compost Pile

As mentioned above, mulch and compost help soil retain moisture, limit weed growth and provide nutrients to your plants and trees.

Running scraps from fruits and vegetables through your in-sink garbage disposal requires water and is an easy way to waste water without even realizing it.

You can avoid this by saving these scraps and adding them to a backyard compost pile or bin instead.

This helps you save water by using your garbage disposal less and then again by using the compost in your flowerbeds or garden to help the soil retain moisture.

Swimming Pool with Pavers

19. Replace Some of Your Grass

You do not have to completely remove your natural grass lawn, but you might want to consider removing some of the grass in your yard.

For example, if you have multiple lawn areas, a grass-covered playground, grass growing between the sidewalk and the street, or an unused grass area in your side yard, you could replace one or more of these areas with low-water grass alternatives.

Replacing natural grass with artificial turf can make your playground safer, replacing the grass in your side yard with paving stones or concrete can make the area more functional, and replacing some of your lawn with native plants can make your yard more visually appealing.

All of these options will help you save water while enhancing your outdoor living areas.

20. Avoid Annuals

Annuals are a quick, easy way to add color to your landscaping, but they tend to require more water than perennials.

Opt for landscaping features that become established and are well suited to thrive in your area with little water.

Most flowering plants are going to need a bit more water until they are established, but once they get going, perennials are usually the best bet for saving water.

21. Limit the Size of Your Lawn to Meet Your Needs

If your primary reason for wanting a natural grass lawn is to have a place for your pets and children to play, limit the size to only what you need for this play area.

While artificial grass is generally considered safer for play areas because it provides a level, sturdy surface and does not harbor bacteria like natural grass, some homeowners still prefer a conventional lawn.

If you prefer a natural grass lawn in your front yard because you find them attractive, you can enhance the visual appeal of your yard even more by including a small, shaped lawn surrounded by a variety of succulents and native plants.

22. Replace Grass Around Tree Trunks

If you have trees growing in your lawn areas, the grass growing under the tree is competing with the tree for the water you give them.

Instead of watering this area more to meet the needs of both your lawn and your tree, replace grass around trees with gravel, mulch, wood chips or a recycled rubber tree ring that can be cut to fit around the trunk.

23. Create No-Water Walkways Through Your Lawn

Traffic is not good for lawns, and every square foot of natural grass you remove from your yard is one square foot of grass on which you will no longer need to waste water.

Remove sections of your grass and replace them with over-sized flagstone stepping stones to provide an attractive walkway and reduce your lawn’s water needs.

Stepping Stones

24. Never Water Without a Nozzle

Hoses without nozzles waste water as you move them from one location to the next and by expelling water continuously.

Nozzles that automatically stop the flow of water when not in use are an affordable, easy way to reduce water waste in your yard.

25. Educate Yourself

Understanding residential water usage and learning to design low-water, low-maintenance landscaping is one of the best ways to stay inspired on your journey to an eco-friendlier, water-saving way of life.

There are plenty of online resources to help you better understand how much water your family is using and how you can conserve water inside and outside of your home.

Here are just a few to get you started:

Save Water and Keep Your Lawn: Final Thoughts


Choosing low-water alternatives to replace your natural grass is always going to be the best way to immediately reduce your water usage; however, if you are not quite ready to give up your grass, you can still save water and feel a little less guilty.

With the water-saving lawn care tips and general landscaping tips mentioned above, you can significantly reduce water waste and get you and your yard on the right track. Even small steps, such as purchasing an inexpensive nozzle for your garden hose or adjusting your sprinkler heads, are steps in the right direction.

How do you save water while maintaining a natural grass lawn?

We would love to hear your tips and tricks!