Utahns: Here’s when you should start watering your lawn this summer

Utah water conservationists recommend not watering your lawn until temperatures are consistently in the 70s.

There is no doubt Utah’s wet winter has saturated dirt and greatly improved the state’s drought outlook — despite also creating the risk of floods along the way.

Those who keep their thirsty lawns in pristine conditions will likely not have to worry about turning on sprinklers in the coming weeks. But when will be the day you should start watering your lawn?

First off, Utah has been and still is under drought conditions. Much of the state is still listed as being in moderate to severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

In other words, the wet weather doesn’t mean lawn enthusiasts have carte blanche to leave sprinklers on for hours.

It should be noted that last year’s snow water equivalent levels were under half of this year’s — 2022 had a maximum of around 12 inches of water compared to this winter’s high of 30 inches.

But for those who want to water their lawns responsibly, the start date for watering will likely depend on where you live and what is the weekly forecast.

“We don’t start recommending watering until average highs are in the 70s,” said Shelby Ericksen, a water conservation manager for the Utah Division of Water Resources.

The water resources division puts out a weekly watering guide that gives recommendations by county on how many times residents should water their lawns — and if they need to water at all.

The most recent guide says the only county that should water their lawns at all is Washington County. Ericksen said that’s because the temperatures there will consistently be in the high-70s to low-80s in the coming week. A good rule of thumb is to not water your lawn until temperatures are consistently into the 70s, but it also depends on how much precipitation the area is getting.

For counties along the Wasatch Front, you don’t need to be watering your lawn for at least the next week, and that date could always be pushed further down the line.

“We’re recommending that everybody (along the Wasatch) wait until after May 1,” Ericksen said.

A good test to tell the dampness of your soil is to take a screwdriver and probe the ground, Ericksen said. If the screwdriver goes into the lawn easily, that means the dirt has sufficient moisture. She noted that the division’s weekly lawn guide may not apply to trees and shrubs, and you should ensure other plant life is sufficiently hydrated.

Despite the record snowpack, Utah is still in the midst of a historic drought, so water conservation will again be key this summer. The cooler temperatures that come with the spring and fall give water managers the best opportunities to conserve water, Ericksen said.

If you do plan on watering your lawn regularly, be sure to water early in the morning or late at night. Don’t water your lawn between 10 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., depending on where you live.

Don’t water your lawn when it’s windy, Erickson added, as the water can carry away from your lawn depending on the wind speed. She also said that raising your lawnmower so the grass is cut to be three or four inches long helps, as the higher grass gives the soil more cover and allows it to retain water more efficiently.

Smart irrigation controllers can also ensure lawns are watered more efficiently, Ericksen said. She added rebates on smart controllers are available online through the Division of Water Resources.

But overall, just water your lawn less.

According to the weekly watering guide, a Utah yard of just a quarter acre with .17 acres of green space soaks up around 3,000 gallons in a single watering.