How to Water Your Lawn in Colorado

Claremont Estate on the campus of Colorado Springs School - Colo Spgs, CO (back view)

With Colorado’s ongoing drought and all the regulations around watering lawns, even the hardiest of green thumbs may be wondering what to do when it comes to outdoor watering. To help you navigate the quagmire of laws about irrigation systems, here is a quick guide on how to water your lawn in Colorado.

Outdoor Water Rules and Regulations in Colorado

When it comes to water conservation, Colorado cities are not messing around. With permanent restrictions in some cities and variable guidelines in others, it’s important to stay informed about your local water jurisdiction. Take, for instance, Denver Water’s outdoor water conservation rules, which apply to all of its customers. 

To keep it simple, let’s just focus on the main points. In Denver, watering must be done between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1st to October 1st. Other rules preventing water waste include:

  • Limit your turf’s watering to three days a week
  • Don’t water new turf for more than 21 days
  • Public, heavily used turf can be watered as long as it’s absolutely essential to preserve it
  • No cleaning of outdoor surfaces like sidewalks and driveways
  • Leaking or damaged irrigation systems must be repaired right away (maximum 10 business days!)
  • Don’t water outdoors during windy weather or when it’s raining

Check with your local water authority to see which restrictions apply to you – they vary depending on the region. If you’re in the Front Range cities, like Colorado Springs or Denver, there is not really an assigned watering day – just keep it to less than three days a week. 

But if you’re in Brighton, watering days get a little more specific. Even-addressed folks should water on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. Those with odd addresses can water on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. 

Word of caution about fines: Certain cities in Colorado have hefty fines (up to $100, on average) for breaking the water rules. So, make sure you adhere to these regulations.

Meanwhile, cities like Longmont and Fort Collins have not implemented any permanent restrictions, but they strongly advise their residents to abide by established water conservation guidelines. Even if you’re a lucky Longmonter without any water limits, still make sure you’re doing your part by avoiding any kind of waste – like overwatering.

Colorado Lawn Watering Schedule

With Colorado’s worsening drought, it’s so important — now more than ever — to create an appropriate irrigation schedule. Whether you’re in a place with lots of watering rules or not, water conservation is essential. 

After checking with your local water authority to make sure you have all the requirements down, let’s go over the factors to keep in mind when coming up with your watering schedule.

How Long to Water Grass in Colorado

Watering your lawn has two basic components: how much water and how often. How much water depends on factors like:

  • Soil Type
  • Grass Type
  • Grass Root System
  • Sun Exposure

You should never guess when it comes to watering your lawn. The general rule of thumb for established lawns in Colorado is to give each session about an inch and a half of water. 

To get an exact amount, here’s a handy trick: 

Grab five containers. Mark a half-inch line on each one. Place them throughout your yard and run the sprinkler system until the containers fill up to the marks. That should take around 20 to 30 minutes, but it can vary greatly depending on the water pressure and your irrigation system. 

Now, here’s the cool part: After figuring out how much water your irrigation system provides, set your timer for shorter, more frequent cycles instead of one long session. That ensures your turf gets the water it needs but not too much! 

The ideal time between two cycles should be at least 60 minutes and no more than 8-10 minutes for each cycle. This irrigation program is a great way to ensure your grass stays hydrated and you don’t waste any water. 

Here’s a sample schedule from Denver Water Guide that tells you how many minutes per day to water your lawn depending on what type of sprinkler system you have during the growing season:

MonthFixed Spray HeadsRotor HeadsRotary NozzlesManual Sprinklers
May12 minutes24 minutes30 minutes18 minutes
June17 minutes35 minutes43 minutes26 minutes
July18 minutes36 minutes45 minutes27 minutes
August14  minutes27 minutes34 minutes20 minutes
September11 minutes23 minutes28 minutes17 minutes

Since we all know that one size does not fit all, some additional factors can help you tailor the amount of water needed, including:

Soil Type 

Clay soils usually require more work for absorption, so you should try cycling through short waterings throughout the day. Adding a pressure regulator to your irrigation system really helps avoid misting. For sandy soils, watering more frequently but with less water each time is recommended.

*Note: One of Denver Water’s main requirements is that you must add “approved compost at a rate of 4 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet of permeable area, incorporated (roto-tilled) to a depth of 6 inches.” Doing this will help create the ideal soil conditions, resulting in deep root growth and overall better health of the turf. 

Grass Type

Knowing the type of turfgrass you’re trying to keep alive and thriving is crucial. Cool-season turfgrass like Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass require supplemental irrigation to survive in Colorado. 

Warm-season grasses like blue grama and buffalograss may have decent drought tolerance, but they, too, need occasional water to perform their best. 

In the following table, you can see the optimum amount of water for Colorado’s grass types during the summer season.

Grass TypeAverage Amount of Water During Hot, Dry Spells
Kentucky Bluegrass2.5 inches of water/week (or more)
Perennial Ryegrass 2.2 inches of water/week (or more)
Tall Fescue & Fine Fescue1-1.5 inches of water/week
Buffalograss1-2 inches of water every two to four weeks
Blue Grama Grass0.5 – 0.75 inches every two weeks 

*Note: Though Kentucky bluegrass is commonly used in lawns across the Centennial State, specialists suggest planting native grasses like blue grama and buffalograss instead, especially in cities like Denver. These natives require less water, which is especially helpful in areas where drought is a problem and water sources are scarce. 

However, remember that blue grama and buffalograss are not suitable for all climates. They might not survive if you live in a higher altitude area.

Sun Exposure

Similarly, when it comes to sun exposure, you should adjust your watering patterns. Here’s why: A lawn with more shade exposure can survive longer periods between waterings. Meanwhile, a lawn in full sun might dry out more quickly, requiring more regular irrigation. 

So, in all the possible scenarios you might encounter, the most important thing to remember is that your lawn needs deep and infrequent irrigation to grow strong and healthy. That is until Mother Nature pays us a visit, of course. When it’s raining, you should shut down your sprinklers to save water and money.

Bonus Tip: For the best irrigation results, especially if you have trees in your lawn, consider a Smart Sprinkler Controller. These devices are beneficial when it comes to programming your system according to weather conditions and the needs of your turf. 

Additionally, a rain sensor attached to your irrigation system will detect moisture in the air or ground and automatically stop the water flow.

*Note: Another of Denver Water’s requirements is that any irrigation system installed after January 1, 2008, must have a functioning rain sensor with a battery backup capable of turning off an automatic clock-controlled irrigation system. 

How Often to Water Grass in Colorado

Though the amount of water your lawn needs may vary depending on your soil and grass type, the irrigation frequency should remain the same across the board. You should water your grass once or twice a week and no more. You may not even need to water it that often. 

It’s best to water your lawn (anywhere in Colorado) only when it’s really necessary — usually when your turf looks whitish and the footprints remain longer than usual. To ensure your lawn doesn’t get overwatered (which could lead to issues like fungus, mold development, and water waste), check to see if the soil profile had enough time to dry out between irrigation sessions. 

The main rule for watering frequency is to avoid irrigating the same area more than three days a week. However, if you are one of the lucky people who live in a region with no water restrictions, learn to read the signs of your turf and adjust the frequency accordingly. Keep in mind that during summer — and in times of extreme drought — you should not water more than necessary.

The following table provides a rough guide to how frequently you should water your lawn in Colorado during summer. It will give you a good idea of how much attention your lawn needs.

MonthWatering Frequency Amount of Water
May1 time/week1 inch
June1-2 times/week1 – 1.5 inches
July1-2 times/week1-1.5 inches
August 2 times/week1-1.5 inches
September1 time/week1-1.5 inches
Mid-October to Mid-April1-2 times/monthAround 1 inch (only if the temperatures stay above freezing with a low risk of frost)

*Note: The general water recommendation for the entire state of Colorado during summer is 1 to 1.5 inches a week. However, if you’re facing extreme droughts, adjust the amount and frequency as necessary. Typically, your irrigation system should be turned off from November to April.

When to Start Watering the Lawn in Colorado

Most Coloradans should begin irrigating their lawns after the last frost in May. Before that, the soil would be too cold and wet for the water to penetrate, and you could increase the chances of lawn disease and weeds. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long and put the grass at risk from possible drought.

When to Stop Watering the Lawn in Colorado

It’s usually a good idea to hold off on watering your lawn in October or November unless temperatures stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and frost is unlikely. That way, you give your grass a break in the chilly weather and prevent any mold from building up during the humid season.

Meanwhile, Colorado State University Extension explains that putting in a new lawn might require a bit of supplemental winter water. After planting new grass, those who live in locations like Colorado Springs, which tend to be more open and drier, are advised to water their turf occasionally during winter to guarantee its health.

Best Lawn Watering Times in Colorado

Lawn water sprinkler at nighttime
Photo Credit: nikkytok / Canva Pro / License

Most Colorado cities strictly regulate watering hours. If your city does have specific watering hours, you’ll need to stick to them. 

To ensure your lawn doesn’t suffer from the heat, you’ll need to water during the coolest times of the day, usually in the early morning or late at night.

The optimal time to water the lawn is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. That’s because, at this time of day, the temperature is cooler, and there’s usually less wind and a higher level of humidity, meaning less water is lost by evaporation. It also overlaps with the grass’s natural dew period, which helps reduce the risk of grass diseases.

Pro Tip: If this isn’t possible, another option is to water from 6 to 10 a.m. or 8 to 10 p.m. That’s because the temperature is still lower than during mid-day. Make sure you check with your local water authority to know what restrictions apply to you.

Essential Tips And Tricks For Watering Your Lawn In Colorado

With a semi-arid climate and prolonged droughts, Coloradans need to be conscious of their water usage, especially when it comes to outdoor watering. Plus, adhering to municipal restrictions can help you save significant amounts of money in the long run. 

To sum it up, here are several essential tips that’ll help you master Colorado lawn watering:

1. Read up on all municipal water rules in your locality before planning your lawn irrigation schedule. 

2. Partner up with Mother Nature — turn off the sprinklers when it’s raining and never wash outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or driveways unless absolutely necessary.

3. Get to know your soil and grass type so you can customize your irrigation frequency and amount of water.

4. Stick to Lawn Care 101:

  • Apply fertilizer to maintain soil quality; this way, you’ll need to water your lawn less frequently.
  • Mow your lawn regularly — if you keep it at a recommended height of 3 to 4 inches, your grass won’t get thirsty so often.
  • Vigorously aerate the soil to facilitate deep and healthy root growth.
  • Determine the ideal run time for each irrigation session.
  • Water in short cycles during the cooler hours of the day in order to avoid runoff or puddling.
  • Check the soil before watering: if it feels damp, skip this session. You can try a screwdriver test — if it goes into the soil at a depth of 1 to 2 inches, there’s enough moisture, and the grass doesn’t need watering.

5. Invest in a smart sprinkler controller — it can help conserve water without sacrificing the beauty of your lawn.

6. Consider installing a drip irrigation system — it can reduce water usage in the landscape consi­derably without jeopardizing your turf’s health.

7. Go native — if you’re considering new plants or grass, pick native or drought-tolerant species to reduce water usage. Consider a xeriscaping project in Colorado — it could really make a difference!

8. Regularly inspect your irrigation system for any damage or leakage. Repair any weak spots and ensure no water is lost due to faulty pipes or leaks.

9. Keep in mind that trees and shrubs need even more attention. They can steal huge amounts of underground water from your lawn! Mulch the area around your woody plants and sprinkle water on the soil surface.

FAQ About Lawn Watering in Colorado

How often should you water your lawn in Colorado?

It depends on the time of year, your soil type, what kind of grass you have, and the amount of sun exposure. In summer, though, you should never water more than three days a week — no matter what part of the state you’re in. Just make sure the soil has time to dry in between irrigations. That will keep your grass looking healthy.

Can you overwater a lawn in Colorado?

Absolutely! Colorado may be known for its sunny, dry weather — but it still gets quite a bit of rainfall during certain times of the year. Plus, you can always give your lawn some extra love by using sprinklers.

So yeah, technically, you can overwater a lawn in Colorado — but it’s not recommended, as too much water can damage your grass and flowers. Additionally, depending on local laws, there may be certain restrictions you need to adhere to when it comes to wasting water.

What is the best time to water your grass in Colorado?

In Colorado, the best time to water your grass is early in the morning, before the sun rises. This helps reduce losses from evaporation and wind drift since temperatures tend to be lower in the early morning hours. The rule is to avoid watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. 

Check with your local water authority to know more about municipal watering hours.

What is the 1-2-3-2-1 lawn watering technique?

Understanding the “1-2-3-2-1 lawn watering technique” can help you conserve water and keep your lawn greener and healthier. It’s easy to implement and requires just a few simple steps. 

Here’s how you get started: You’ll want to crank it up in May and water your lawn twice a week. As summer hits, bump it up to three times a week to keep your grass hydrated in the scorching heat. Come September, it’s time to reduce the watering schedule –- drop it back down to two times a week. And once fall arrives, you can scale it back to just one time a week. 

Following this schedule is a great way to make sure your lawn is adequately hydrated and looks its best without wasting a single drop of water.

What is the best type of sprinkler for watering a lawn in Colorado?

When it comes to choosing a lawn sprinkler in Colorado, there are several factors to consider. Climate and soil type play a major role, as do the size and shape of your lawn. This means you’ll need to do a little research before selecting a sprinkler that works best for your needs.

You might try a drip irrigation system, a soaker hose for small areas, or a spray head sprinkler for larger lawns.

How often do you need to fertilize a lawn in Colorado?

In Colorado, it’s best to fertilize your lawn roughly two to four times yearly. Since the weather here is so unpredictable, you should make sure to check the soil in your yard throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Start fertilizing in mid-March, then continue through late June. 

Be sure to water your lawn frequently during this time to allow the fertilizer to absorb properly. You can fertilize again in late August and one more time in mid-October. Try to avoid fertilizing after Halloween, as the cool temperatures can cause lawn damage.

What is the best type of grass to grow in Colorado?

If possible, you should go native and choose Colorado’s state grass –- blue grama. It is blistering hot during the summer months, so blue grama is resistant to drought and maintains its color even through the dry season. For high-altitude areas, it is best to choose hardy, cool-season grasses like blue fescue or perennial ryegrass. 

Homeowners in Colorado are also encouraged to implement xeriscaping –- landscaping with water conservation in mind. A mixture of various perennials, shrubs, and ornamental grasses can be used to create interesting and colorful yards while also relying less heavily on water resources. In this case, bluegrass lawns are not recommended, as they require too much water.

Lawn Care: DIY or Hire a Pro

Protecting your lawn and conserving water in Colorado can seem daunting, but there’s a simple solution: Create an irrigation plan tailored specifically to you. By selecting native grasses and plants, mulching, and using smart watering schedules, you can help keep your water bill down and your lawn happy.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, contact a local lawn care pro for help in Colorado

Whether you live in Denver, Colorado Springs, or any other city in the Centennial State, a lawn care pro can walk you through the entire process, get your lawn in line with regulations, and save you a lot of hassle.

Main Photo Credit: Claremont Estate on the campus of Colorado Springs School / Patricia Gallardo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Luminita Toma

Luminita Toma

Luminita Toma is a nature-loving writer who simply adores pretty flowers and lawns. After plenty of research and writing on lawn care and gardening, she's got a keen eye for plants and their maintenance. When she's got some spare time, there's nothing she enjoys more than chilling with her friends, hitting the theatre, or traveling.