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Rules for Outdoor Water Use

Climate change is here and now.

Colorado’s climate is warming, and it’s more important than ever to use water efficiently. In Denver, temperatures have risen by about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 40 years. In Colorado, six of the state’s eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2012. By considering water-wise changes to your home landscape and by following our summer watering rules, you can help all of us save the precious resource that is water.

Outdoor watering rules are in effect May 1 to Oct. 1.

It’s the right thing to do in our dry climate and helps preserve reservoir levels, reducing the risk of water restrictions in the future. The watering rules incorporate best practices for efficient outdoor water use that will help keep your landscape healthy.

  • Water during cooler times of the day — lawn watering is NOT allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Water no more than three days per week.
  • Do not allow water to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not irrigate while it is raining or during high winds.
  • Use a hose nozzle with a shut-off valve when washing your car.

Longer grass is more water efficient. Keep cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass between 2.5-3.5 inches and warm season grasses between 1-3 inches.

Lawn watering times

These times are based on a sprinkler system running at an efficient level. Watering is not allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The chart below is a starting point for the number of minutes to water each sprinkler zone on the days you determine watering is needed. These times are averages. Adjust your watering minutes based on rainfall, type of grass or plants, sunny or shady locations and other characteristics.

Watering two days a week should be sufficient during most of the summer. If needed, water a third day during extreme heat or dry periods. Water trees and shrubs as needed, but not between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Shrubs and perennials need half as much water as lawns.

There are no assigned watering days, but never water a zone more than three days per week.

Minutes to water per zone (for lawns, based on three days per week)

Fixed spray head
Fixed spray heads

Rotor head
Rotor heads

Rotary/high-efficiency nozzle
Rotary/high-efficiency nozzles*

Manual sprinkler
Manual sprinklers

January – April Water trees and shrubs as needed.
May 12 24 30 18
June 17 35 43 26
July 18 36 45 27
August 14 27 34 20
September 11 23 28 17
October – December Water trees and shrubs as needed.

These times are based on a sprinkler system running at an efficient level. Watering is not allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Tip: Water, rest, water

To maximize efficiency and allow the soil time to soak up the water, add multiple start times and reduce each zone’s watering time. For example, a 14-minute run time may be irrigated for 7 minutes, turned off while another zone is irrigated, then irrigated for the remaining 7 minutes to achieve the total 14-minute run time.

*Rotary/high-efficiency nozzle information.

Get more information and tips for watering your lawn.

Rules for watering new seed and sod

Denver Water customers with newly planted seed or sod may water the new turf as necessary for up to 21 days. After 21 days, the seed or sod is subject to outdoor watering rules.

If you are requesting a watering exemption, the newly landscaped area should be 250 square feet or larger. It is wasteful to run an irrigation system on an area any smaller, and you can hand water areas that are less than 250 square feet. Keep in mind that you may see an increase in your water use upon watering for up to 21 days.

Tip: Amending the soil with compost prior to planting will help to establish new plant material more successfully. Denver Water recommends that you till compost into the areas that you are planting. Learn more about the benefits of compost.

To submit your request for a 21-day watering rules exemption, fill out the Customer Care Contact Form (available 24/7), chat with us during business hours using the blue chat icon located in the lower right-hand corner of this page, or call 303-893-2444.