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Water-Use Efficiency Rebates for a WaterSmart Home

Rebates are available for San Diego County residents seeking to reduce their water use and water bills, as drought persists across the Southwest U.S. The second year of drought, and a statewide call for water-use conservation, makes this an ideal time to be “WaterSmart.”

Outdoor water-efficiency rebates

Outdoor water use is 53% of the water used by residential properties. Most of that water is applied to keep grass green. There are a variety of rebates and classes that can help you upgrade your turf landscape to a beautiful sustainable, water-saving landscape. To learn more, visit WaterSmartSD.org. Available rebates include:

  • Turf Removal – Rebates start at $3 per square foot for qualifying projects that replace grass with landscapes that incorporate water-saving plants, irrigation system upgrades and rainwater capture.
  • Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers – Rebates start at $80 for controllers that automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to account for changing weather, soil conditions and plant types. For landscapes large than one acre, rebates start at $35 per station. Homeowners can save 8,800 gallons of water annually by replacing a standard clock timer with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller.
  • Rain Barrels – Rebates start at $35 for up to two rain barrels, or $250-$350 for a cistern to collect rainwater for later use, while minimizing the amount of water flowing into storm drains, sewer systems and local waterways.
  • Soil Moisture Sensor Systems – Rebates start at $80 on sensors for landscapes less than one acre and $35 per irrigation station for larger sites.
  • Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles – Rebates start at $2 per nozzle for nozzles that apply water slowly and uniformly to prevent over-watering and encourage healthy plant growth. Participants must buy at least 30 nozzles from the list of qualified products.
  • Flow Monitoring/Leak Detection Devices – Rebates start at $100 for qualifying models that monitor your home’s water use and can help detect leaks.
  • Unincorporated Areas – Residents and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County are eligible for increased water-use efficiency rebates under a new partnership between the County’s Watershed Protection Program and the San Diego County Water Authority. Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at: SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates.

Indoor water-efficiency rebates

Indoor water use makes up 47% of water used on residential properties. A homeowner can save four gallons of water during every shower by replacing showerheads with WaterSense-labeled models. Available indoor rebates include:

  • Premium High-Efficiency Toilets – Rebates start at $40 for toilets that use 1.1. gallons per flush from the qualified list. Toilets make up 30% of a typical home’s indoor water use.
  • High-Efficiency Clothes Washers – Rebates start at $85 for washers. Qualified products are listed at com and additional rebates may be available from San Diego Gas and Electric at sdge.com. High-efficiency washers have a 55% water savings and 25% energy savings.
10 WaterSmart Tips-Drought-Water-efficiency rebates

Ten tips to live WaterSmart. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

Free landscape makeover classes and resources

The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program will help you create an outdoor space that loves San Diego as much as you do! The classes and videos offer the skills, knowledge, and confidence to turn turf areas into outdoor rooms that will thrive in San Diego County’s climate. The four-class series is taught by local landscape professionals who focus on creating actionable design, planting, and irrigation plans for each participant’s landscape.

Three-hour virtual workshops are also available and focus on various landscape topics with a “do-it-yourself” approach. The Landscape Makeover Videos on Demand series mirrors the content of the four-class series, taking homeowners step-by-step through the process of creating water-efficient landscapes. Twenty short, entertaining videos cover topics ranging from soil health and plant selection to rainwater harvesting.

Free WaterSmart checkup

Homeowners who would like advice on lowering their water use, adjusting their irrigation controller, or upgrading their irrigation system can schedule a free on-site WaterSmart checkup by going to WaterSmartCheckup.org. A WaterSmart Checkup is an opportunity to receive free, site-specific water-saving recommendations. Homeowners benefit from the perspective of certified irrigation professionals and decide if and when to implement the suggestions. There is no obligation. Savings can top 20%.

The Water Authority’s Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper Program trains professionals in water-efficient landscape principles and practices, including soils, plant selection, irrigation systems, and scheduling specific to the region. They’ll help you upgrade and maintain your landscape with a focus on the San Diego climate. To find a pro in your area go to qwel.net.

WaterSmart living may not only save money, but create vibrant yards, reduce energy use, protect natural resources, reduce landscape maintenance, and improve property values. It also creates a shared sense of purpose about how San Diegans use their limited water supplies — in a word, WaterSmart.

Overwatering-drought-landscaping-Conservation Corner

Check Before Overwatering Your Landscaping

Do you know if your landscaping really needs water? Even if you have waterwise irrigation on a properly timed schedule for your individual landscaping plan, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s really needed. You could be wasting water assuming it’s necessary. Appearances can be misleading.

Rely on data from an old-school method of measurement. Because soil may appear dry on the surface, stick your finger into the soil and see if the soil is wet beneath the surface. If the soil is moist up to your second knuckle, it doesn’t need any more water. Wait for another 24 to 48 hours, then recheck the soil.

If you don’t want to ruin a manicure, use a soil probe to measure the moisture in the soil to determine whether the soil needs more water.

You can also observe plant health. How vibrant are your plants? This can be tricky because sometimes the signs of overwatering and underwatering will produce similar results in plants.

Watering your plants by hand is a great way to control exactly how much water they receive and observe them closely to be sure they are flourishing in the early stages.

Watering your plants by hand is a great way to control exactly how much water they receive and observe them closely to be sure they are flourishing in the early stages. Photo: Jill Wellington/Pixabay

Underwatering symptoms include:

  • Soil is bone dry
  • Older leaves turn yellow or brown and drop off
  • Leaves are wilted
  • Leaves curl and become brittle
  • Stunted plant growth

Overwatering symptoms include:

  • Soil is constantly saturated and soggy
  • Leaves turn a lighter shade of green, or turn yellow
  • Younger plant shoots wilt
  • Leaves are green and brittle
  • Algae and mushrooms are in the soil
  • Growth is excessive

Rely mainly on objective measurements. Symptoms at both irrigation extremes can be similar. Using simple measurement tools can help ensure the correct amount of irrigation takes place without withholding needed moisture, but without overwatering and wasting resources.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Winning Waterwise Landscapes in the Vallecitos Water District

San Diego County residents continue to embrace a conservation ethic by creating beautiful, waterwise landscapes. The Vallecitos Water District reports that more District water customers are reducing their outdoor water use and adopting WaterSmart practices.

Three Vallecitos customers are the most recent examples of the landscape makeover trend, creating beautiful landscapes, and winning the regional Watersmart Landscape Contest.

Getting Professional Guidance on Your Sustainable Landscaping

With the help of resources such as the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover classes, video on demand, and Sustainable Landscape Guide, many homeowners feel prepared to create a beautiful new sustainable landscape on their own.

But sometimes, it’s a smart idea to call on professionals trained in different aspects of the watershed approach to landscaping. With a little help, you can ensure the success of your project. For your investment, you will likely save time and money by avoiding unsuccessful efforts.

Landscape professionals can help advise you on planning your waterwise landscape and choice of plants. Photo: Anna Shvetsova / Pexels professional guidance

Getting Professional Guidance on Your Sustainable Landscaping

With the help of resources such as the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover classes, video on demand, and Sustainable Landscape Guide, many homeowners feel prepared to create a beautiful new sustainable landscape on their own.

But sometimes, it’s a smart idea to call on professionals trained in different aspects of the watershed approach to landscaping. With a little help, you can ensure the success of your project. For your investment, you will likely save time and money by avoiding unsuccessful efforts.

There is no shortage of experts available in all aspects of landscape planning, design,  installation, and maintenance.

Assessment organizations, including site assessment and testing, various measuring services, surveyors, soil testing services, and even Google Maps are available. Property measuring and survey companies can develop more detailed site plans with elevations, siting of trees, and landscape amenities.

Professional experts in multiple fields

Landscaping design and planining

Landscaping designers can expedite your landscape makeover plans. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Planning and design professionals can help you develop a working plan and budget for your landscaping. The plan should include drawings, resource lists, and an outline of the techniques needed to implement the plan. Landscape designers and architects can help you create a conceptual design. Working with a licensed professional is recommended if you have hillsides and slopes or complicated structures.

Landscape installation and construction professionals are licensed contractors specializing in building landscapes and can work on all aspects of a sustainable landscape plan. You may be able to install your own garden, but if you get stuck, you can call upon the expertise of an experienced pro who carries all the necessary insurance and is knowledgeable about permitting requirements.

Rainwater catchment specialists include people certified by the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association to design and install rainwater capture systems. These pros can bring specialized expertise to your project, particularly if it involves installing an active capture system such as a cistern. The water savings you achieve can offer you a solid return on investment.

QWEL program curriculum includes 20 hours of classroom and hands-on training on principles of plant care, irrigation system design, maintenance, programming, operations and troubleshooting. Photo: Water Authority professional guidance

QWEL program curriculum includes 20 hours of classroom and hands-on training on principles of plant care, irrigation system design, maintenance, programming, operations, and troubleshooting. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Irrigation system consultants include people with certification by an EPA WaterSense® organization to provide irrigation system auditing, design, and maintenance. They can help you improve the efficiency of your irrigation system. The Irrigation Association, California Landscape Contractors Association Water Managers, Qualified Water Efficient Landscapers (QWEL), and G3 Watershed Wise Landscape Professionals all provide searchable lists of qualified people.

Plant selection specialists include your local retail nursery and garden center, native plant societies, Master Gardeners, and professional gardeners. Learn from them, and do your homework to select plants that are both climate-appropriate and locally native to your area. You will be rewarded with a better understanding and appreciation of your garden as it evolves over the years.

The maintenance of sustainable landscapes requires an understanding of the watershed approach to landscaping and water management. Even if you eliminate the need to mow a lawn, there remains the need for fine pruning, irrigation tune-ups, cleaning and checking water retention devices, and soil building. Maintenance people have the know-how to implement mulching, basic irrigation adjustments, and care for native plants.

Certified arborists are specialists trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees. Find qualified professionals at the International Society of Aboriculture and the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

Take advantage of the public education provided by your local water district, various nonprofit organizations, and the San Diego County Water Authority. Classes are often free of charge.

The Irrigation Association, California Landscape Contractors Association Water Managers, Qualified Water Efficient Landscapers (QWEL), and G3 Watershed Wise Landscape Professionals all provide searchable lists of qualified people.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Hausmanns-Vallecitos Water District-landscape makeover-waterwise-WaterSmart

Winning Waterwise Landscapes in the Vallecitos Water District

San Diego County residents continue to embrace a conservation ethic by creating beautiful, waterwise landscapes. The Vallecitos Water District reports that more District water customers are reducing their outdoor water use and adopting WaterSmart practices.

Three Vallecitos customers are the most recent examples of the landscape makeover trend, creating beautiful landscapes, and winning the regional Watersmart Landscape Contest.

Neighbors often ask the Hausmanns about their new landscaping. Doug Hausmann often shares plants and lends a hand on their projects. Photo: Vallecitos Water District winning

Neighbors often ask the Hausmanns about their new landscaping. Doug Hausmann often shares plants and lends a hand on their projects. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Best in District winners Doug and Pam Hausmann have lived in San Diego County since 1975.  They both became interested in succulents and decided to remove their sprinkler system. They now water by hand. Some of their plants get by with as little as four waterings a year.

By propagating and selling succulents, the Hausmanns raise about $1,000 a year on behalf of a nonprofit supporting a friend’s grandson affected by a rare disease. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Hausmanns started growing different plants from cuttings provided by neighbors, and from plants they purchased and then divided. Their success with propagation generated interest in low water use gardening among their friends and neighbors. The couple donated their propagated plants and expertise, helping neighbors to plant waterwise succulent gardens at their own homes.

Waterwise landscape as philanthropic enterprise

The Hausmanns propagation talent helped raise money for “24 Hours for Hank,” which supports research in Cystinosis, a rare genetic disease. Cystinosis affects 500 people in the United States. Because the disease only affects a small percentage of the population, research money is scarce. By propagating and selling succulents, the Hausmanns raise about $1,000 a year for the charity on behalf of a friend’s grandson affected by Cystinosis.

The Hausmanns were selected as contest winners for their successful landscape project, for the philanthropy it generated, and for the teaching opportunity it inspired.

Saving water, saving wildlife

 

All three winning landscape designs provide habitat for pollinators and birds. Photo: Vallecitos Water District winning

All three winning landscape designs provide habitat for pollinators and birds. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Tours of residential native landscapes and a visit to the Vallecitos Water District Sustainable Demonstration Garden inspired second place winner Bruce Ferguson to follow through on his desire to transform his yard into a more natural and native setting, attractive to wildlife.

Ferguson loves to see lizards, birds, and butterflies. His garden design reduces stormwater runoff and allows for more infiltration of rainwater into the ground by including two small bioswales. He added two small ponds to provide a water source for animals. After the makeover, Ferguson’s water savings range from 20% to 40% monthly.

Bruce Ferguson completed all the work himself on his landscape makeover. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Third place winner Ellen Kaplan replaced her lawn with a drought-tolerant garden to conserve water, eliminate expensive monthly landscaping, and to give her home more curb appeal.

She used a variety of palms, annuals, kangaroo paws, and succulents. She replaced the existing sprinkler system (which she admitted did a better job of watering her driveway) with a drip system providing targeted watering only where needed.

Ellen Kaplan enjoys watching hummingbirds visiting her new landscaping - and so does her cat from safely inside the house. Photo: Vallecitos Water District winning

Ellen Kaplan enjoys watching hummingbirds visiting her new landscaping. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

All three winners received a gift certificate to Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos to support their waterwise gardening adventures and a Watersmart Landscape Contest Winner sign for their front yards.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Contouring Tips Help You Make the Grade

Moving both irrigation and our limited natural rainfall through your yard into storage areas via the use of various landscaping features borrow Mother Nature’s engineering. This is especially important during hot, dry summer months. If your yard is perfectly flat, you must move soil and features around to create more water-retaining contour areas.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Encinitas Landscape Transformation Project Wins Local Contest

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors honored at its July 14 meeting Ken and Susan Terzes as the winner of OMWD’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

Microclimate Matching in Your Landscaping Plan

Earlier in our Conservation Corner series, we described how to map the different types of microclimates present in your landscaping. Using this information helps homeowners arrange plants in a new sustainable landscape. For the most efficient water use, plants should be grouped together with similar water needs according to their preferred microclimate.

In nature, plants that like lots of water are found along the banks of a stream, or grouped together at the base of a depression. Plants that need fast-draining soils so roots don’t rot might be found on hillsides. Plants that love lots of sunshine won’t grow in the shade of a tree.

San Diego County Mitigation Efforts Aid in California Drought Battle

As the drought deepens throughout California, San Diego County has postured itself to make it through dry spell conditions as a result of planning and mitigation efforts.

After experiencing a severe drought in the early 1990s, San Diego County officials went to work on diversifying its water supply. At the time, the region was hit with 50% supply reductions because it relied almost entirely on a single source. Since then, however, the San Diego County Water Authority has taken a varied approach. According to the authority, the region has added a new transfer of conserved agriculture water from Imperial Valley and completed the All-American and Coachella Canal lining projects to receive conserved water from the Colorado River.

“The Water Authority’s draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan shows that regional investments in a ‘water portfolio approach’ to supply management and a sustained emphasis on water-use efficiency mean that San Diego County will continue to have sufficient water supplies through the 2045 planning horizon – so the region’s residents and economy remain safe even during multiple dry years,” the authority told 10News.