As water conservationists worry about Minnesota groundwater supplies, they say one of the ripest areas for cutbacks is lawn watering.
Minnesota Public Radio examined residential use of water in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and found it varies widely. The MPR report cited Andover as the biggest per capita user over five years, at about 120 gallons of water a day.
That's twice as much as residents of Minneapolis use.
Discrepancies like that suggest there are gains to be made from changes in lawn watering, MPR reported.
"Irrigation is definitely the biggest player on the municipal side," said Klay Eckles, public works director in Woodbury, another big per capita water user. "Anything associated with the irrigation side of things is probably your biggest ticket item that you can have the best chance of a major success."
"I don't know that we're at a point where we can't have lawns, but as we watch the trends and the water supply and where our water is coming from, we might want to be more careful," said Dave Leuthe, a water conservation specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In Andover, some residents said they love making their lawns look good.
"I put a lot of TLC into it. It's my hobby," said Mike Andrescik, a retiree.
Andrescik said he hasn't needed to water as often this year because of the rainy weather. But when it's dry, the city lawns need more water because it drains fast in the sandy soil.
A neighbor, Charla Rochko, said she's never contemplated not being able to keep her lawn green.
"It would be hard," she said. "I love to do the lawn."
Andover doesn't yet face the groundwater pressures that others are, particularly in the north and east Twin Cities suburbs that tap a different aquifer for their water. The Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer that supplies them is showing signs of stress, the most visible sign of which is the historic decline of White Bear Lake.
Cities aren't preparing to pay people yet to replace their lawns with less thirsty plantings. But Woodbury and other cities have experimented with incentives for rain barrels, rain gardens and native landscapes. They are also working with homebuilders to give new lawns more top soil to help sod hold water better.