Water-saving landscape
A water-saving landscape. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

Third in a series republished with permission from the San Diego County Water Authority‘s website.

Before starting your water-saving landscape makeover, there are significant decisions to make, including plant and irrigation choices. First, determine what type of landscape will meet your needs and maximize your water-saving potential.

Eliminating turf is the main target for saving water. Grass requires more water to keep it green than most other plants. In fact, turf needs four times the amount of rain our region gets annually.

But saving water isn’t the only reason to get rid of your lawn. If you aren’t using your lawn as outdoor living space or a safe place for your children and animals, it’s going to waste.

Consider instead an attractive type of substitute such as groundcovers or more interesting plant groups along pathways. There are many alternate choices — including limited turf.

Low to Moderate Water Use Plants

A low to moderate water use garden has some moderate water use accent plants and up to 10% high water use plants.

  • 45% low water use
  • 45% moderate water use
  • 10% high water use

Low Water Use Plants

A low water use garden has no more than 10% high water use plants.

  • 90% low water use
  • 10% high water use

Very Low Water Use Plants

A very low water use garden has a mix of very low and low water use plants.

  • 50% very low water use
  • 50% low water use

After choosing your mix of plants, take time to learn about the possible irrigation choices.

Drip irrigation. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

Low-Efficiency Irrigation

  • Conventional spray irrigation: Conventional spray heads apply water faster than most soils can absorb it, and they produce smaller water droplets that are susceptible to wind.
  • Impact rotors: Impact rotors are one of the least efficient methods of irrigation. They are quickly being replaced by higher efficiency options.

Moderate-Efficiency Irrigation

  • Rotating nozzles: best suited for spaces 15 to 70 feet wide.
  • Low precipitation sprays: best suited for areas 5 to 30 feet wide.

High-Efficiency Irrigation

  • Drip emitters and inline emitters: drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water perennials, shrubs, trees, and new turf. Drip systems apply water slowly so runoff is not an issue. You can leave the water on long enough to reach the deep roots of shrubs and trees.
  • Pressure-compensating inline drip: best for low-maintenance.
  • Pressure-compensating point source drip: efficient distribution when properly maintained.
  • Bubblers: best suited for trees and large shrubs.
  • Micro-spray: best suited for tree and shrub areas of smaller size.

Whether you want to create space for entertaining, limit landscape maintenance or maintain some turf for children and pets, you can reach your water-saving goals and create an outdoor space to live in.

The San Diego County Water Authority offers programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. For more water-use efficiency resources, go to WaterSmart.SD.org.