Lawn & Landscape Irrigation

The good news about lawn and landscape irrigation is that you can have your cake and eat it, too! Lawns and landscapes can be designed and maintained to be good looking and water conserving.

photo of sprinkler hitting mailbox


Water application measurement both on lawns and ornamental plantings is one of the best steps towards a water-efficient landscape. Measuring the output of your sprinklers is easy to do, and if you make adjustments based on the results, you'll save money on your water bill.

Soils and Zones

Photo of Irrigation

Photo by John Fech

Start by building lawn and landscape soils with sufficient water retention for plant growth, yet allow excess water to properly drain away. Once good soils are in place, create water zones. Water zones are distinct sections of your property which contain plants with similar water needs. The first unique zone is the turf which should be separate from the other plants in the landscape; further subdivisions lead to greater water efficiency.


Right Plant, Right Place

Choose well-adapted water-saving ornamentals and turfgrasses. This is a key component of the "right plant, right place" concept of selecting plants for the growing conditions of the landscape. Other selection criteria include plant height, fall color, disease resistance, bloom color and timing, winter appeal and level of maintenance.

Right equipment

photo of sprinkler

It's crucial to match the irrigation equipment with the size, shape and type of landscape being watered. Knowing when to water for best plant absorption and health is another key water-saving method.

Stormwater Management in Your Home Landscape

The ideal way to manage stormwater is to let it soak in to the ground.  If stormwater runs off it can cause problems when amounts are excessive and runoff becomes polluted. With sustainable design and management, you can reduce the runoff from your property and help prevent water pollution.

You can help protect and conserve water:  

  1. Use landscape design practices that reduce the amount of runoff water from your property such as rain gardens, swales or rain barrels.
  2. Understand the types of pollutants that can come from the home and yard.
  3. Reduce the use of potential pollutants and keep potential pollutants out of the path of runoff water.
  4. Use responsible lawn and landscape care practices.

Key Points:

  • Every property drains to a waterway whether or not the property is located near surface water.
  • In urban areas, stormwater runoff from rain and snowmelt flows from rooftops, paved areas, and yards and is directed to storm drains. Even a light rain or the flow from a garden hose or lawn irrigation system can result in runoff.
  • As runoff water flows, it can collect and carry pollutants including soil, fertilizer, pesticides and yard waste. This polluted water flows to storm drains, through storm sewers, and then is discharged to surface water.
  • Water from storm sewers is not treated to remove pollutants.
  • The amount of pollution coming from one property may be small, but when combined with runoff pollution from other homes and businesses, it can cause environmental problems.
  • The above is called nonpoint source pollution, or runoff pollution. It cannot be easily traced to one source or one property. Virtually everyone contributes to nonpoint source pollution of water resources, mostly because we don't realize how it happens.  The good news is, you can do many things to reduce runof pollution from your home and yard. 
To see how you can reduce runoff and runoff pollution, check out the above linked topic pages and the resources in the Stormwater Management section of our Publications page. 


What is stormwater?  It's water from rain or melting snow.  Watch the video above and learn about stormwater runoff and why it can be a problem. 

Help us help you

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Information presented within the lawn and landscape section of this Water Web site has been reviewed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Stormwater and Greenspace Team. Members include Erin Bauer, Sarah Browning, Kathleen Cue, John Fech, Kelly Feehan, Thomas Franti, Bobbi Holm, Elizabeth Killinger, Katie Pekarek, Steve Rodie, Jim Schild, Dave Shelton.


Did you Know?

NEWDownspout redirection helps make the most of rainwater when we do receive it. Many downspouts direct rainwater onto pavement where it quickly flows into the street and then down a storm drain, often carrying pollutants with it to surface water. By directing downspouts onto a planted area, more rainwater soaks in and less runs off. See our newest Stormwater Management NebGuide: Disconnecting Downspouts and Impervious Surfaces.


PDF version (3.5 MB)


newWise Water Use Publications Available!

Make Every Drop Count on Your Lawn -PDF only (120 KB)
Information on efficient water usage on the lawn.

Make Every Drop Count in Your Landscape -PDF only (120 KB)
Information on efficient water usage in the landscape.

Make Every Drop Count In Your Home -PDF only (502 KB)
Water use and conservation tactics for property owners.



UNL Extension Publications

Tips for a Sustainable Landscape

10 Quick Watering Tips

Backyard Farmer

Stormwater Sleuth Comic BookThe Stormwater Sleuth comic book, Stormwater Sleuth and Running Rain: Keeping It Clean! Slowing It Down!, is part of a youth education kit being developed by the University of Nebraska-LIncoln Stormwater Management Education Team. The purpose is to teach youth across Nebraska about water resources with a focus on watersheds, urban runoff isues, and rainwater harvesting/green infrastructure.

Animation: Urban runoff and Non-point source pollution (uses Flash)

DVD's & Videos from Extension's Garden Center

Perennial Plant Association - Plant of the Year

All-America Selections
Organization's Web site for a listing of well proven veggie and annual flower cultivars.

UNL Turfgrass

Water Conservation Demonstration Gardens

Visit these locations to see water-conserving gardens up close and in action!