Scotts Water Smart Formula

Environmental Claims:

  • Water Conservation – Feeding with Scotts Water Smart Formula builds a healthier lawn which using less water, which can save thousands of gallons of water a year
  • Air Quality – Water Smart lawns keep outside air cleaner and reduce pollution by trapping and filtering dirt, dust, and smoke
  • Climate Change – A Water Smart lawn cools the environment and acts like an exterior “air conditioner” for your home

Product Evaluation:

Scotts Water Smart Formula’s claim that it may save thousands of gallons of water a year is difficult to evaluate. The use of fertilizer will indeed assist a lawn to grow with less water than an unfertilized lawn; however, the amount of water saved due to this brand is unclear. Their assertion is certainly not firm as they state that the product may save thousands of gallons of water, and they give no hard figures, such as the size of the lawn for which one may expect to save thousands of gallons of water, or the climate in which these savings occur. Also, in a footnote, they state that their claim is in comparison to an unfertilized lawn, although this is to be expected.
While the first claim of the Scotts campaign may in fact hold some water (ha), the attempt to stretch the environmental merits of fertilizer any further is difficult to swallow. Below I have compiled a list of the negative environmental impacts of commercial fertilizer, as well as general lawncare. The downside of the non-fertilizer aspects of lawncare is justifiably included here, as Scotts cites the overall benefits of maintaining a healthy lawn, which includes not only fertilizing, but watering, mowing, etc.

  • Runoff of lawn fertilizer into streams, lakes, and ponds contributes to eutrification (excessive algae growth that results in oxygen depletion), which can dramatically alter or destroy aquatic ecosystems
  • The production of most nitrogen fertilizers consumes huge quantities of fossil fuel (while lawn fertilizing is certainly not on the same scale as agricultural fertilizing, to get an idea of just how energy intensive making fertilizer is, consider that a third of all energy in the agriculture processes goes into fertilizer manufacturing)
  • Fueling the U.S. fleet of 40 million lawnmowers consumes several hundred million gallons of gasoline each year
  • Lawnmowers with two-stroke engines emit as much air pollution each hour (excluding CO2) as a new car with California pollution control standards driven 2,200 miles, according to Bill Welch of the Center for Emission Research, Analysis and Certification


Scotts Water Smart Formula may help to conserve water; however, marketing a lawn fertilizer as a “green” product is simply that, marketing.

Sources:, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Environmental Building News


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Paul said,

    Is Scott’s Water Smart just high in phosphorus? Root growth?

  2. 2

    Ryan T said,

    This is an old blog entry, but it showed up pretty high on Google, so: I grabbed this fertilizer while in a bit of a hurry, thinking it contained something that enhances water penetration. I don’t see any evidence of that, so to me it’s misleading. It’s not higher in phosphorus or potash than other fertilizers either. So I might as well buy a cheaper one. As it is, I use chemical fertilizers sparingly, along with some extra iron and mulching the clippings. This only strengthened my resolve to avoid getting taken by vague marketing claims.

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