Each year in the summer, residents break out the sprinklers and hoses to water thirsty, dry lawns.

As a result, the summer means a yearly peak in residential use of the city of Prior Lake’s water system, which ends up being about five times the winter water use amount, Prior Lake Mayor Kirt Briggs said.

“What that does is that forces the city to account for that peak in capital infrastructure,” Briggs said. “That’s water towers, that’s pumps, that’s water treatment facilities. Quite honestly, there’s a better way.”

The city and the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District are hoping to combat this trend by raising awareness of programs offered by the watershed district to conserve water.

Rain barrel

The watershed district has a rain barrel program available to residents throughout the city, where the district will reimburse residents $50 for the cost of a rain barrel.

Rain barrels range from 50 gallons to 130 gallons and collect rainwater for yard work and landscaping.

“That’s more significant than people think if they truly use those,” Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District President Fred Corrigan said. “I was at a house the other day that had four (rain barrels). I’m guessing they have a lot of water they’re collecting. ... I think people are becoming more aware that we are depleting the groundwater system.”

Applications do need to be submitted before making a purchase as the watershed district needs to approve the invoice. Applications can be found at the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District’s website.

Rain barrels can be purchased but can also be made at home.

Lake irrigation

Those with lakefront homes — of which there are approximately 1,200 lots on the two lakes — can also apply for the watershed district to cost share up to 50 percent or up to $150 of a pump to put in the lakes.

“Lawns only need an inch of water a week,” Briggs said. “When you look at how our rain comes in, Mother Nature does a pretty good job there.”

The pumps allow those living on the lake to use the lake water to water their lawns. Using water from the lake would also lower water utility bills.

“If you pump water out of the lake, the phosphorous is good for your lawn, so you should be able to avoid the fertilizer,” Corrigan said. “If we can prevent or reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer that’s going on these lawns and into the lake, that’s a huge benefit to trying to treat the water later.”

Briggs said not many lakefront homeowners are taking advantage of the cost share program or pumping from the lake.

“It’s been interesting how few of the homes that are lakefront abutting have taken advantage of this program the watershed district has had for quite some time,” Briggs said. “It’s for the health of the lake, the health of our lawns and the health of our pocket books.”

Corrigan said part of the reason residents aren’t sure if they’re able to pump from the lake is that the lake level used to be low but that is not an issue at the moment.

“I think people are willing to do more and hopefully with these incentives we can get them to look at doing more,” Corrigan said.

Pumps can be found at hardware stores but the watershed district will help residents if they’re unable to find pumps, Corrigan said.

“The overall goal is to reduce the amount of water we’re pumping (from the ground),” he said. “The state is not going to continue to allow the cities to increase the water they’re using.”

Applications for sharing the cost of the pumps can also be found on the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District’s website, plslwd.org.

Maggie Stanwood was born and raised in small-town Iowa before moving to Wyoming in middle school. After her brief stint in the Wild West, she attended the University of Missouri - Columbia, where she graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelors in Journalism.