You are now in Conservation Corner Features category.

How Much Water Do Plants Need?

It’s important to assess how much water your outdoor plants need to stay healthy. The heat and humidity in San Diego County is far from over, with the official start of Fall September 23. Irrigation needs are generally highest during these warm months.

Did you know that plants can be classified by their water needs?

Landscaping professionals use a resource called the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species, or WUCOLS, to classify plants according how much water they need to thrive.

It might sound complex, but it’s very useful because it breaks down the water requirements for each type of plant. There are four categories: Very Low, Low, Moderate, and High. These water requirements are also called Plant Factors. They are an important tool for transitioning to a more water-efficient landscape. By knowing exactly how much water your plants need, you can cut down on your water usage while also keeping your plants happy.

Calculating water requirements for outdoor plants

To calculate a Plant Factor, compare the plant’s water use to cool season grass in a given climate zone.

Why is that? Turf is among the thirstiest of all types of plants. When you replace turf areas with climate-appropriate plants with lower water requirements, and irrigate them with more efficient systems, you can greatly increase your water efficiency. You don’t have to turn your landscaping into a dry moonscape to do it.

Plant factors, or PF, categories:

Plant Factor categories from high to low water use. Graphic: Water Authority

High: Plants need from 60 to 100 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.6 – 1.0)

Moderate: Plants need 30 to 60 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.3 – 0.6)

Low: Plants need 10 to 30 percent of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of 0.1 – 0.3)

Very Low: Plants need 10 percent or less of the water needed for a grass lawn (PF of less than 0.1)

Group plants by PF to irrigate more efficiently

In the Water Authority’s Sustainable Landscaping guidebook, plant selections are color-coded to identify their water needs under this system. That approach provides an easy way to group plants by their water requirements in your landscape, so you can irrigate more efficiently.

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at

How-To Replace Your Turf And Get Paid

Did you know that outside landscaping consumes around 50-70 percent of water used at a single property? Not only does that take precious resources, but it also costs you, the homeowner, money. You may qualify for a rebate program that pays to save! Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are offering a rebate program for removing grass turf and replacing it with a water-wise yard.

Crystalline Nets Harvest Water From Desert Air, Turn Carbon Dioxide Into Liquid Fuel

When Omar Yaghi was growing up in Jordan, outside of Amman, his neighborhood received water for only about 5 hours once every 2 weeks. If Yaghi wasn’t up at dawn to turn on the spigots to store water, his family, their cow, and their garden had to go without. At a meeting last week here, in an-other area thirsting for freshwater, Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, reported that he and his colleagues have created a solar-powered device that could provide water for millions in water-stressed regions.

Senate Bill 1 Continues To Move Through The California Legislature

Last week California Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) continued with its forward momentum, advancing from the California Assembly Appropriations Committee by a vote of 13 to five.  The legislation that some environmental groups are referring to as ‘Trump insurance’ is now headed to the California Assembly floor.  The California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019 known as SB 1 seeks to uphold specific federal policy as it pertains to water.


Proposed EPA Rules Could Limit State And Tribal Power To Block Infrastructure Projects

The Trump administration is proposing new rules that would limit state and tribal power to block projects that they deem harmful to water quality.

The rules specifically would restrict these non-federal governments’ authority to review the water quality impacts of projects that require a federal permit or license. These projects range from pipelines to hydropower facilities to dredging — any development that result in “discharge” into U.S. waters.

Under the Clean Water Act, states have the power to regulate water quality within their borders. In Oregon, that authority falls to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Hydropower Giant Bonneville Power Is Going Broke

Nearly a century ago, America embarked on a great social experiment in the Pacific Northwest, charging up the Columbia River and erecting dams.

It worked. Construction jobs pulled the country out of the Great Depression. Cheap electricity spurred the growth of cities like Seattle, Portland and Boise. And hydropower fueled the military effort to defeat the spread of fascism in World War II.

Now the system is buckling.

The Bonneville Power Administration, the independent federal agency that sells the electricity produced by the dams, is careening toward a financial cliff.

Sacramento Had Its 3rd-Hottest Meteorological Summer In 140 Years. Will It Finally Cool Off?

The calendar has flipped to September, but Sacramento is still experiencing August heat.

Following a Labor Day high of 98 degrees, the latest National Weather Service forecasts show a slight cool-down on the way. Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to hit 96 and 95 degrees, respectively, before temperatures cool to the low 90s or high 80s by the end of the week.

The Delta breeze will help bring nighttime relief, with low temperatures expected in the low- to mid-60s through Friday.

(L to R) Helix WD employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam MWD workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley. Photo: Helix Water District Paradise Irrigation District

San Diego Water Pros Aid Paradise Irrigation District Following Camp Fire

Six water professionals from the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District spent one week in August assisting the Paradise Irrigation District with disaster recovery in the wake of the devastating Camp Fire.

The Camp Fire burned through the town of Paradise, California in November 2018. CAL FIRE reported the fire burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities and several firefighter injuries. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, according to CAL FIRE.

Ten months later, Paradise remains hard at work on recovery efforts.

The fire caused significant damage to the Paradise Irrigation District’s infrastructure. As a result, more than 10,500 customers fell under a “Do Not Drink” advisory due to contamination from several harmful volatile organic compounds in distribution pipelines.

Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Austin Darley (kneeling) and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Padre Dam employees Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles, and Helix employees John Wilson, Dan Baker, Eric Hughes and Bryan Watte, spent a week in Paradise working to help ensure water system safety. While most customers have water service restored, the water quality is being carefully monitored.

“The majority of the work we did revolved around keeping customers in water during a three-day testing period, and reestablishing water service through a plastic jumper after samples had been drawn,” said Darley.

State emergency assistance system activated to provide mutual aid

Helix and Padre Dam are among 14 member agencies and the Water Authority participating in the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or CalWARN, to support and promote statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual assistance processes for public and private water and wastewater utilities.

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“This program is like an insurance policy that can provide assistance when an emergency becomes larger than our internal resources can deal with,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam Communications Manager. “The situation Paradise Irrigation District finds themselves in is a good example of this. We also have agreements with neighboring water agencies in which we call upon each other for equipment or staffing when needed.”

The agencies identified staff with the skills and experience to help the Paradise Irrigation District. All agreed to volunteer for the mutual aid mission. Padre Dam employees Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley were selected to help.

“Jesse and I feel very blessed to work for an organization that is passionate about helping those in need,” said Darley. “It was an important reminder that recovery efforts continue long after the disaster leaves the news. Paradise is still in need of our thoughts, prayers, and help.”

Recovery effort not over for Paradise Irrigation District

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing,” wrote Helix employee Dan Baker while working in Paradise. “I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Water service for burned lots will be replaced as recovery progresses and new homes are built.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to assist our fellow Californians with this recovery effort,” added Darley. “Although we exist 600 miles apart we all have the same goal, to deliver safe and reliable drinking water to our residents and communities.”

As Salton Sea Shrinks, Experts Fear Far-Reaching Health Consequences

In the string of small farm towns that stretches south from California’s Salton Sea toward the border with Mexico, pretty much everyone knows someone with asthma.

As many as three of every 10 people report having the disease in places like Brawley, Calipatria and Westmorland — compared with about one of 10 in California as a whole. Bronchitis is also common, and many residents complain about coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

How To Save The Colorado River From Climate Change And Chronic Overuse

Paul Kehmeier is a fourth-generation farmer from western Colorado. One hundred and twenty years ago, his great grandfather Wilhelm Kehmeier bought land in Delta County, dug an irrigation ditch to bring water from a nearby stream, and got to work planting. The Kehmeier family has been farming on the same land ever since, growing alfalfa, hay and oats. But a few years ago, Paul Kehmeier did something unusual: he decided not to water about 60% of his fields.