Why Your Sprinkler System Might Be Causing a High Water Bill — And How to Investigate

A sprinkler system is a tremendous convenience for homeowners, ensuring that landscapes remain lush and green throughout the warm months. However, a sudden surge in your water bill could indicate an issue with this system. Here’s a guide to determining why your sprinkler might be hiking up your expenses.

1. Check for Leaks

Leaks are among the most common culprits for unexpected increases in water bills.

  • Visual Inspection: Begin by checking each sprinkler head and valve for signs of water pooling or overly wet spots.
  • Zone Test: Turn on each zone individually and watch for gushers, irregular sprays, or water that bubbles up around the sprinkler head.
  • Main Line: The main water line can also leak. If you notice wet areas when the system hasn’t been on, this could be a sign.

2. Inspect the Control Timer

The timer controls how long and how often your sprinklers run.

  • Settings: Ensure the timer settings align with your desired watering times. Over time, they can get changed inadvertently.
  • Power Outages: Some systems revert to a default program after a power outage, which might water more frequently than you intend.

3. Assess Your Watering Schedule

Sometimes, it’s not a system malfunction but an overly aggressive watering schedule.

  • Duration: Ensure you aren’t watering for too long. Lawns typically need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall.
  • Frequency: Watering deeply and less frequently promotes healthier root growth. It’s better to water a couple of times a week rather than a little every day.
  • Time of Day: Water during the early morning or evening to minimize evaporation.

4. Evaluate the Sprinkler Heads

Mismatched or damaged sprinkler heads can affect water efficiency.

  • Mismatched Heads: Different sprinkler heads discharge water at different rates. Ensure all heads within a zone are of the same type.
  • Obstruction and Alignment: Sprinkler heads can become misaligned due to lawn mowers or foot traffic. Make sure they’re pointing the right way and not spraying onto sidewalks, driveways, or streets.

5. Examine the Pressure

High or fluctuating water pressure can result in water being wasted.

  • Regulate the Pressure: If the water pressure is too high, install a pressure regulator. For systems with consistent pressure issues, pressure-regulating sprinkler heads are available.

6. Consider Evapotranspiration (ET) Rates

This is the sum of evaporation from the land and the transpiration from plants. Modern sprinkler controllers can adjust based on ET rates and local weather conditions.

  • Weather-Based Controllers: If your current system doesn’t have this, consider upgrading. It automatically adjusts watering based on real-time weather data.

7. Review Monthly Water Usage

Comparing your monthly water usage can give you insight into any anomalies. A bill that’s steadily increasing might indicate a small leak that’s worsening, while a sudden spike might suggest a broken component or misconfigured setting.


A high water bill doesn’t always mean you have to stop watering your garden or compromise on its beauty. With regular checks and maintenance of your sprinkler system, you can ensure that it operates efficiently, saving both water and money. Remember, being proactive about sprinkler care not only conserves a precious resource but also helps you avoid unexpected costs.