Tips & Resources

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Water conservation provides many benefits. Beyond being mindful of one of our more precious resources, it helps reduce the water system’s energy usage because less pumping is required, and it puts less of a demand on our sewer and wastewater infrastructure, meaning less maintenance is required, all of which helps to keep rates low.

Irrigation Timer Video Tutorials

It is important that customers set their irrigation controllers to follow the City of Fresno Outdoor Water Use Schedule.  There are a number of videos available online that help customers learn to program and use their irrigation controllers.  Customers are encouraged to research and understand the proper use of their timers for maximum water conservation.  A few videos for the most popular timers are listed below

External Web Links

There are a variety of water conservation resources available online for customers to access.

Water Conservation Tips

Making small adjustments to daily activities and routines can help customers save hundreds of gallons each year.  Conservation not only helps customers to lower water bills, but it also helps to preserve this precious resource for future generations.

An example of a small adjustment that can save water is to use the Cycle and Soak watering method to irrigate in clay soil.  Cycle and Soak watering is a method of irrigation where water is applied in multiple shorter cycles thus allowing the water to soak into the soil before running off.  The Cycle and Soak watering method not only saves water, but also improves your lawn’s health. For more information on the Cycle and Soak method click the link for our Water Smart is Money Smart guide.

General Indoor Water Conservation Tips

Easy ways to reduce water use indoors:

  • Fix Leaks
    Saves up to 110 gallons each month
  • Fill the bathtub halfway or less
    Saves 12 gallons per bath
  • Recycle indoor water & use for plants
    Saves gallons of water each month
  • Install a high-efficiency toilet
    Saves 19 gallons per person per day
  • Turn off the water when brushing teeth or shaving
    Saves 10 gallons per person per day
  • Wash full loads of clothes & dishes
    Washer: saves 15-45 gallons per load
    Dishwasher: saves 5-15 gallons per load
  • Install aerators
    Saves 1.2 gallons per person per day
  • Shower for only 5 minutes
    Saves 12.5 gallons with a water-efficient showerhead per shower


General Outdoor Water Conservation Tips

Easy ways to reduce water use outdoors:

  • Plant drought-resistant trees & plants
    Saves 30-60 gallons per 1,000 sq. ft. each time you water
  • Install drip irrigation & add a smart controller
    Saves 15 gallons each time you water & saves 24+ gallons per day
  • Set mower blades to 3”
    Encourages deeper roots & saves 16-50 gallons per day
  • Reimagine your yard
    Feed your vegetables & fruits water first because they feed you!  Water-wise plants and shade trees use little or no water once established.  Thirsty plants such as lawn and container plants are the lowest priority.  If you have to cut back, start here.
  • Adjust sprinkler heads & fix leaks
    Saves 12-15 gallons each time you water & a leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month
  • Use a broom to clean outdoor areas, rather than a hose
    Saves 8-18 gallons per minute
  • Use Mulch
    Saves 20-30 gallons per 1,000 sq. ft. each time you water



Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30% of an average home’s indoor water consumption.

  • Upgrade your toilet:  Efficiency measures such as replacing water-guzzling toilets with the latest in low-flush toilet technology helps to conserve and protect the City of Fresno’s water supply.  Recent advancements have allowed toilets to use 1.28 gallons per flush or less while still providing equal or superior performance.  The City of Fresno offers a rebate of up to $100 when replacing an old high water-use toilet with a qualifying High-Efficiency Toilet (HET) that displays a WaterSense label.
  • Check for leaks:  Toilets are notorious for silent leaks and can waste thousands of gallons of water.  It is easy to check for a toilet leak.  Simply put a few drops of food coloring into the tank.  Do not flush the toilet.  If the toilet is leaking, the color will appear in the bowl within 10-15 minutes.  Once you have completed the test, flush the toilet, since food coloring may stain the tank.  If a leak is discovered, check the toilet for worn out, corroded, or bent parts, especially the “flapper” valve.  Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available, and easily installed.

Clothes Washers

Clothes washers are the second-highest source of water use within a home, accounting for more than 20% of an average home’s indoor water consumption.

  • Upgrade your clothes washer:  Energy Star certified clothes washers use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers and can help families cut their related energy and water costs.  A full-sized Energy Star certified clothes washer uses 14 gallons of water per load, compared to the 20 gallons used by a standard machine.  The City of Fresno offers a rebate of up to $100 to water customers when purchasing and installing a qualifying clothes washer that displays an Energy Star label with a water factor of 6.0 or less.
  • Wash full loads:  Washing full loads only can save 15-45 gallons per load, or up to 300-800 gallons of water per month.
  • Adjust the water level:  Adjust the water level setting if your clothes washer has one.  Some loads take less water than others.

Sinks & Faucets

  • Install aerators:  The most effective and inexpensive way to reduce water use at the faucet is by installing a low-flow faucet aerator on all household faucets.  Aerators save water by adding air to the water and reducing splashing.  They do not reduce the water pressure, rather they increase the spray velocity, but they use a lot less water.  For maximum water efficiency, purchase aerators that have flow rates of no more than 1.0 to 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm).
  • Turn off the water:  Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving, or while washing.  Don’t run the water without plugging the sink drain.
  • Washing dishes by hand:  When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water, using the least amount of detergent possible.  This minimizes the rinse water that is needed.  Fill another sink or basin for rinsing.

Showers & Baths

Which is better – a shower or a bath?  It depends on how long you stay in the shower and how high you fill the bathtub.  A bathtub filled about 1/3 or less full uses far less water than a long shower.  On the other hand, a shorter shower uses less water than a full bathtub.

  • Replace the showerhead:  Switching from a high-flow showerhead to a high-efficiency one can save thousands of gallons of water a year.  All showerheads manufactured in the United States after 1992 must restrict flow to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) or less, and some models use even less water.
  • Take shorter showers:  Five minutes or less is best.  Create the Shortest Shower Contest for your family!  Time each family member on how long it takes for their routine shower & then see if they can shave some time off after being aware of the time that they take.
  • Use only the minimum amount of bath water:  Fill the bathtub about 1/3 full for an adult and much less to bathe babies, small children, or pets.  Close the drain before running the water.  The initial burst of cold water will be warmed by adding hot water later.

In the Kitchen

  • Replace the dishwasher:  New dishwashers use about 4-9 gallons of water per load.  Energy Star appliances use less than 6.5 gallons per load.
  • Only run the dishwasher when full:  Don’t waste water using the dishwasher for small loads.  Load the dishwasher fully before operating.  Many newer dishwashers require little or no advance rinsing of dishes.  Check the instruction manual for your machine to determine if you can minimize pre-rinse water usage.
  • Use garbage disposals less:  Kitchen sink disposals require a high level of water to operate properly – as much as 4 gallons per minute.  Whenever possible, compost food scraps or put them in the trash can rather than using the disposal.
  • Food thawing and cleaning:  Defrost frozen food in the microwave instead of running water over it.  Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables – instead, rinse them in a filled sink or pan.
  • Cooking techniques:  Steam vegetables instead of boiling them.  Besides using less water, you will retain more vitamins in the food.  If you must boil foods, use a timer to avoid too much evaporation

Household Water System

  • Install an instant water heater:  Installing an instant water heater will avoid wasting water while it heats up.
  • Insulate water heater and pipes:  Not only will you get hot water faster and use less water if your water heater and pipes are insulated, but you will also avoid wasting water while it heats up.
  • Install a hot water recirculating pump:  Consider purchasing a hot water recirculating pump to help avoid wasting water while it heats up.  The City of Fresno offers a rebate of up to $100 to purchase and install a hot water recirculating pump.

Evaporative Coolers

Maintenance is the best way to keep evaporative coolers working efficiently without wasting water.  For the most efficient cooling, check evaporative coolers annually.  Below are some good maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • The float can usually be adjusted to make it work properly, or it can be replaced.  Floats are fairly inexpensive if a replacement is needed.
  • Open hose use is prohibited, but it is suggested that the customer might want to wet the pads down occasionally and replace pads often.  Pads are inexpensive.
  • Rusted out pans usually cannot be repaired unless the damage is small enough to use a sealant.
  • The bleed-off valve water, which prevents mineral buildup on pads, can be directed toward landscaping.  Bleed-off clamps can reduce water usage.

Landscape & Irrigation

Set your irrigation system timer to follow the Outdoor Water Use Schedule.  Remember to only irrigate on your scheduled water use days and never between the hours of 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Most water is wasted in landscaping by either watering when plants do not need water, or by not maintaining the irrigation system.  By combining water conservation practices with creative landscape design, you can create an attractive haven that is relatively hassle-free.  By using shade, rethinking traditional grass lawns, taking advantage of natural runoff, planting in low irrigation areas, and using mulch, your landscape can be transformed into a beautiful design that conserves water.  Additionally, a properly designed and maintained irrigation system can reduce water use.

The City of Fresno offers several rebates for the replacement of inefficient landscapes and irrigation with more efficient alternatives.  More information can be found on the Rebates page.

  • Proper landscape design & irrigation:  Select plants that are appropriate for our local climate conditions.  Consider Valley-friendly water-efficient plants and grasses.  Adjust your watering to take advantage of the less-thirsty plants.  Avoid planting lawns in areas that are difficult to irrigate properly such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
  • Group plants:  Grouping plants according to their water use needs saves a substantial amount of water.
  • Water only what landscape needs:  Considerable amounts of water is wasted in your yard by watering when plants and grass are not thirsty.
  • Use mulch:  Put a layer of mulch around trees, bushes, and plants.  Mulch slows evaporation, helps the soil retain moisture, discourages the growth of weeds, and provides essential nutrients.
  • Don’t over-fertilize landscaping:  The application of fertilizers increases the need for water and is a source of water pollution.  Use fertilizers according to the direction.
  • Soil improvements:  Soils improved with organic matter allow for better water absorption and water-holding capacity.  Properly enrich your soils with compost or peat moss.  Aerate clay soils at least once a year to help the soil retain moisture.

Swimming Pools & Water Play

Swimming pools and water-based recreation toys are great for cooling off on a hot summer day, but don’t let them become a source for wasting water.

  • Install a pool cover:  Using a pool cover when a swimming pool is not in use will cut the loss of water by evaporation by up to 90 percent.  It will also help keep your pool or spa cleaner and reduce the need to add chemicals.  The City of Fresno offers a rebate of up to $100 for the installation of qualified pool covers.
  • Automatic pool fills:  Check to make sure that your automatic pool fill is set to the appropriate level.  This will help save water by making sure the pool level does not drop as far before the automatic fill activates.
  • Kiddie/wading pools:  If you use a shallow kiddie/wading pool, make sure to use the water to feed plants and gardens when you’re done with it.
  • Water recreation toys and activities:  Create awareness in your household of the need for water conservation.  Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.  If you wish to play in the sprinklers to cool off, make sure this is done only during the appropriate outdoor water use days and hours, as outlined in the Outdoor Water Use Schedule.

Vehicle Washing

  • At home:  When washing your vehicle at home, use buckets and sponges instead of a hose.  Use the hose only to rinse the soap off.  Make sure you have an automatic shut-off nozzle attached to the hose.  Park the car near a lawn or landscaping so that any water that runs off goes into the landscape, not the gutter.
  • Commercial car washes:  Commercial car washes capture used water and recycle it, making them more efficient with their water use than washing vehicles at home.


It is possible to achieve a healthy lawn without a lot of effort.  It all starts by being water smart.

  • Practical lawn areas:  Lawn should be grown only in areas where it provides functional benefit.  In areas with low lawn use, substitute less water-demanding materials, such as ground covers, water-efficient plants or mulches.  Porous materials, rock, wood, or concrete pathways and patio areas can also be added to decrease water use while enhancing your yard, creating interest in the landscape.
  • Lawn mowing:  Set mower blades to around 2-3 inches high.  Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in one mowing.  Mowing the grass too short causes root shock, which turns the grass yellow despite the amount of water used.  On the other hand, mowing higher helps develop deep roots.  Grass needs leaf surface to take in sunlight, which allows the grass to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system.  A lawn with deep roots requires less water and is more resistant to drought and disease.  Taller blades of grass hold up better in the heat because that little bit of extra cover shades the root zone, keeping more moisture in the soil.  Longer, thicker grass also makes it difficult for weeds to germinate and grow.
  • Keep lawn mower blades sharp:  For best results, keep the lawn mower blades sharp and mow when the grass is dry.  Sharp blades reduce water loss from your lawn.  A sharp blade does not leave a ragged edge on the blade of the leaf as a dull blade does.  Those ragged edges can soak up a lot of water, and when considering the total surface area of cut grass blades, it adds up quickly.
  • Consider Grasscycling:  Grasscycling involves leaving the grass clippings on the lawn.  Because grass clippings are 75 – 85 percent water, they quickly decompose and release nutrients back to the lawn.  Grasscycling – or mulch-mowing – provides greater shade to the ground and assists in reducing the rate of evaporation of soil moisture and surface watering.  You save time by reducing the need for bagging, raking, and watering.
  • Let it breathe:  Once a year, aerate your lawn by removing small plugs of earth.  This allows air and water to reach the grass roots.  You can have this done professionally, or rent tools to do the job yourself.
  • Be water smart:  Water your lawn only when it needs it.  A good way to test this is to step on the grass.  If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need watering.  If it stays flat when you move, it needs watering.  Water early or late in the day.  As much as 30% of water can be lost to evaporation by watering when it is hot.  If you have an irrigation controller and water is running off and not soaking in, set your controller to water in two shorter periods of time for the same total length of time.  By breaking up your watering time, you allow the water to soak into the ground before adding any additional water, eliminating runoff.

Garden Hoses & Outdoor Faucets

Your garden hose and attached sprinklers can pour out hundreds of gallons of water in just a few hours.

  • Hose nozzles:  Attach an automatic shut-off spray nozzle to your hose so that you can better control water use and so that the water doesn’t run freely when you set the hose down.
  • Check for leaky hoses and fixtures:  A standard garden hose can use 10 gallons of water per minute or more.  This means you can easily use 100 gallons of water with only a 10-minute use.  Check all hoses, hose bib connectors, and spigots regularly.  Replace your hose if it leaks or is split.  A hose washer will usually take care of hose bib leaks.
  • Repair dripping and leaky faucets:  Small drips add up to 100-300 gallons a day.  Consider the additional waste if you have more than one dripping faucet in your yard or outdoor space.  Repair dripping and leaking faucets immediately.

Sprinklers, Drip & Other Irrigation Systems

Homes with the average in-ground sprinkler systems can use up to 35% more water outdoors than those who do not have an in-ground system.  One reason may be that the system controllers are not adjusted according to seasonal irrigation needs.

  • Determine the “point of run off”:  Start your system through its automatic cycle.  As each station comes on, make a note of the time it starts.  Watch each station and note how many minutes it takes to start running over to the curb, onto the sidewalk or driveway, or to start forming puddles.  This is the “run off point.”  Using the shortest length of time noted, reset each station on your timer so the individual stations will shut off at this “run off point.”  If you have clay or compacted soil that is slow to absorb water, set your timer to run a second cycle (again to the “point of runoff”) that begins AFTER the first cycle has soaked in.
  • Set irrigation timers appropriately:  Set irrigation system timers to correspond with the Outdoor Water Use Schedule.  Make sure your automatic irrigation system time has a rain shutoff device.  Adjust or deactivate automatic sprinklers in cooler weather.  Be attentive if you are manually watering by setting a timer to remind you to move the water promptly.
  • Avoid controller power outage problems:  Replace the battery in the controller with the recommended type.  A good battery maintains the controller’s memory during power outages.
  • Teach the family to use timers:  Teach your family or others how to shut off automatic systems so they can turn them off if the system gets stuck or there is an emergency situation.  Also, teach them how to set the timer.
  • Repair system leaks:  Inspect sprinkler systems regularly for breaks, leaks, and correct timers.  Manually turn on each sprinkler station valve and check to make sure there are no broken sprinkler heads or pipes in each area.  Make all repairs promptly and clean the filters in pop-up sprayers.  Flush out drip system filters and tubing.  Check each station for leaks every two weeks.
  • Correct over spray:  While checking each station for leaks, adjust any sprinkler heads that are spraying onto driveways, sidewalks, or the street by rotating the head, correcting the spray pattern, adjusting the amount of flow from the heads, and/or using the correct spray pattern.
  • Check the soil moisture:  Although your grass may feel dry on the surface, the underlying soil may be sufficiently moist.  When in doubt, stick a soil probe, screwdriver, or moisture meter into the grass to determine if additional watering is necessary.
  • Consider drip irrigation:  Install a drip irrigation system for watering gardens, trees, and shrubs.  Drip irrigation provides a slow, steady trickle of water to plants at their roots through a network of pipes and hoses.  The systems are regulated by a controller that can be adjusted for different levels of watering according to the needs of the plants.  Drip irrigation systems reduce overwatering, inefficient watering, weed growth, and the time and labor involved in hand watering.

Ponds & Fountains

Properly managing ponds and fountains to avoid unnecessary draining and refilling can save thousands of gallons of water a year.  Fountains and ponds should be equipped with recirculating pumps.  These water features should also be checked annually for hidden leaks or other problems.  Do not install ornamental water features unless the water is recirculated.