Water Restrictions and Managing Turf During Drought – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

Water Restrictions and Managing Turf During Drought

For those in the Indianapolis area, customers of the Department of Waterworks – City of Indianapolis are “asking residential and business customers to not water lawns through Friday, July 29 in the wake of continued lack of rain, high heat, and high water consumption”.

The request is voluntary – initially requested on Wednesday, July 20 – and is targeting lawn irrigation in addition to other summer uses such as water for swimming pools, outdoor recreation, etc.

The water restrictions are not due to a shortage of water in this case but due to infrastructure challenges (water main breaks).

A main reason for the request to stop watering lawns is to reduce the stress on the system and a concern on being able to maintain adequate pressure (for hydrants) in order to assist in the event of a major fire.”

We published a few tips last week on how to deal with the high temperatures and drought. Two key points for managing lawns during this period are:

    1. Stay off the turf when it is drought stress. Do not mow or drive across drought stressed turf (see photos below).
    2. Your lawn may be brown from drought, but it is not likely to die unless it goes 4 weeks or more without irrigation/rainfall. Therefore, water once every 2-4 weeks with ½ inch of water to keep turf plant crowns hydrated during drought. This amount of water will not green up the turf, but it will increase its long-term survival during long dry spells. This type of irrigation strategy will help keep your turf alive (although not green) and help comply with the request from the Department of Waterworks.


Vehicle traffic to turf that is drought stress will damage and kill turf in many cases.

Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist

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