Efficient lawn watering helps Chicago region conserve water, save infrastructure costs

Communities throughout northeastern Illinois typically see a surge in outdoor water usage, starting in May and peaking in July, as residents and businesses look to keep their lawns green and lush during the summer. But increased usage and inefficient watering techniques, compounded by low river and groundwater levels that result from warmer and drier weather, strains the region’s drinking water supplies and raises sustainability concerns.

Watering at the wrong time of day or leaving the sprinkler on for too long can lead to excessive outdoor water use, which can have greater ramifications for the community at-large. Such actions can result in expensive infrastructure projects and maintenance costs for many communities that have to increase capacity to keep up with the summertime demand. The effects of climate change, such as longer periods of drought, also stand to intensify the issue over time.

ON TO 2050, our comprehensive regional plan, calls for water conservation that can promote more sustainable practices for communities grappling with supply limitations or relying on Lake Michigan, where international agreements require sustainable uses of resources. Water conservation also plays a vital role in maintaining a strong supply of high-quality drinking water that can serve future generations. This policy brief examines the strategies communities can use to counteract excessive use and save water.

Key takeaways

  • Reducing outdoor water use saves money and helps conserve the region’s limited water resources, especially during times of drought.
  • Although many communities have adopted outdoor water use strategies that enhance conservation, guidelines can vary widely from town to town.
  • To promote water conservation, communities should take four steps: create common guidelines, prepare for the next drought, target high outdoor water users, and encourage water-saving landscapes.