Vista Irrigation District Landscape Winner Complements Home Design

Vista Homeowner Diane Krupnak redesigned her front yard to save water and won the 2023 Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding watersmart residential landscapes based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient irrigation methods.

Free Online WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshops

As California enters a fourth straight year of drought, more residents are taking advantage of free, online webinars helping them create a beautiful, water-efficient outdoor landscape. New three-hour workshops are now scheduled through December, funded in part by the County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program.

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Water-Use Efficiency for Large Landscapes Focus of Free Webinar

In the third year of drought, water agencies are providing opportunities, including rebates and resources, to increase water-use efficiency. A free webinar August 31 is geared for people who manage or own properties with large landscape areas.

Managers of homeowner associations, rental housing, commercial, industrial and public properties are invited to the webinar on the State of California’s evolving drought response, status of the Colorado River Basin, regional impacts and landscape restrictions.

The San Diego County Water Authority leads a panel that includes arboriculture, irrigation, design and horticulture experts focused on information and resources applicable to large landscape decision makers. Topics include:

  • Local resources for property-specific drought information.
  • Tree watering options and turf zone exemptions.
  • Monitoring and measuring, plant choices and water budgets.
  • Landscape maintenance priorities.

Low-cost landscape maintenance strategies

The webinar is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Along with clarifying current drought restrictions and options, participants will also hear about access to education and training programs, funding resources and low-cost landscape maintenance strategies that can help achieve significant water savings.

Registration and additional information about the “Demystifying Drought” webinar:

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Program partners include San Diego chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) and the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). The professional educational opportunity is a continuing education feature of the Water Authority’s Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) professional certification training program.

Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper

From soils to water budgets, audits and controller programming, San Diego professionals have increased their knowledge of the science and principles of water-efficient landscapes in the Water Authority-sponsored QWEL training program. The professional certificate training is highly rated by industry pros and recognized with the WaterSense® label. In the San Diego region, the interactive and engaging live webinar classes are taught by leading industry educators. The fall and winter schedule includes certification and continuing education opportunities offered during the day and evening in English and Spanish.

Here’s How to Choose a Professional to Help Create a Water-Saving Landscape

If you choose to design, implement and maintain a new water-saving landscape yourself, you can follow the Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape to help you plan, prepare, and work through each step. Free classes and online videos can help.

Do It Yourself or Hire a Landscape Professional?

If you choose to design, implement and maintain a new WaterSmart landscape yourself, you can follow the Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape to help you plan, prepare, and work through each step. Free classes and online videos can help.


WaterSmart homeowner Jeff Moore's back yard zen garden featuring his landscape work fit beautifully into his area's climate zone. Photo: Water Authority caring for

Caring For Your WaterSmart Living Landscape

Whether you install a new WaterSmart Living landscape or are just looking for tips on how to conserve water in your existing landscape, the following section can help you make an immediate impact on your landscape water savings.

View these tips, and follow the guidelines below

Plan ahead. Keep a copy of the plant legend, irrigation plan, and runtime schedule to make it easy to buy replacement plants and parts. This will also help locate and troubleshoot pipes to make repairs or adjustments if needed in the future.

Monitor and minimize watering. When set up correctly, your smart controller will automatically adjust watering times to respond to changes in weather. To maximize water savings, program your controller to apply only the amount of water needed for each zone. A good rule of thumb is to water only when the top inch of soil is dry. If you see runoff before the end of the irrigation cycle, adjust the schedule to more often for a shorter duration each time.

To schedule your irrigation correctly, you must know your equipment type, plant water use, soil texture, and watering zone. Use the Watering Calculator on to create a basic watering schedule for your property. Adjust as needed for optimum plant growth and water efficiency.

Water at appropriate times. If possible, schedule your irrigation system to run in the early morning. It is best to avoid watering at night to prevent fungus and mildew problems from night time watering. Avoid watering midday to eliminate excessive evaporation.

Managing irrigation schedules is a key part of caring for your WaterSmart Living landscaping. Photo: Irrigation Association

Managing irrigation schedules is crucial to caring for your WaterSmart Living landscaping. Photo: Irrigation Association

Check irrigation equipment. You may not witness the system running in the early morning hours. Be sure to manually turn the system on seasonally and after severe weather changes to catch potential problems. Check drip systems to ensure emitters are working and clean out filters as needed. Over time, drip emitter locations may need to be relocated as your plants grow. Adjust spray sprinklers to prevent overspray and runoff.

Fertilizing tips. Use an organic fertilizer or compost. Compost can be made from garden waste and some kitchen waste to continually enrich your soil. For more information and recipes for do-it-yourself compost, see the Water Authority’s eGuide to a WaterSmart Lifestyle.

Weed control. Weed naturally whenever possible. Using herbicides can be costly and, if not correctly applied, can damage the environment. Designing and maintaining a healthy landscape can be the best defense against weeds. Hand pull any weeds that come up in your garden every few weeks. Pull them before they go to seed.

Manage pests. The key to controlling pests and diseases is to maintain healthy soil and select plant species that are not prone to pest problems. Consider following Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices. Use chemical control only as a last resort. Try spraying pests with a blast of water, release beneficial bugs (ladybugs and lacewings), spray insecticidal soap, or use compost tea. Consider replacing pest-prone plants. See our eGuide for more information on natural pest control and compost tea. When using chemical control, always follow the manufacturer’s dosage, application and safety information.

Maintain a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch. Replace the mulch as needed.

Use a broom or blower to clean driveways and sidewalks instead of a hose.

Make a plant maintenance checklist. Keep a copy of your plant list and make a checklist of maintenance requirements for each plant.

Monitor your monthly costs and water use on an ongoing basis.

Enjoy the peace of mind from knowing you did your part to protect our natural resources and the environment.


WaterSmart Living-Logo-San Diego County Water Authority

(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer programs, resources, and incentives to improve water-use efficiency for residential, commercial, and agricultural users. WaterSmart choices are a way of life in the region. Stay WaterSmart San Diego! For more water-use efficiency resources, go to

Ripping Out His Lawn Made Him a Native Plant Fanatic

For Georg Kochi, tearing out his Koreatown lawn has been as much about spiritual growth as water conservation — a deep and sometimes playful exploration into habitat, rebirth and decay on the property where he lived as a boy and returned decades later as a retiree.

The parkway in front of his house in St. Andrews Square, for instance, was full of wildflowers this spring, but the colorful flowers have turned into dry, dirty-blond seed heads and stalks interspersed with clouds of blooming buckwheat, juvenile coastal live oak trees and waves of native grasses.

Sacramento Watering Rules Don’t Apply to Your Trees. Here’s How to Care for Them in Drought

Sacramentans should continue to water their trees regularly despite the city’s watering restrictions on lawns and landscapes.

While residents can only water their lawns and landscapes twice a week during the dry season until the end of October, trees are exempt from this restriction, according to the city.

Why are trees exempt from this rule, and how can I keep my trees healthy?

Native Plant Communities in Sustainable Landscaping

Plants growing wild naturally arrange themselves into communities with other plant varieties based on their shared characteristics such as water and nutrient needs. This natural selection extends to interactions with each other, and with other species such as insects, birds, and other animals.

Native Plants Highlight Sweetwater Landscape Contest Winner

Chula Vista resident Paul Rodriguez gave up struggling to maintain his thirsty green lawn in favor of a new landscape design featuring California native plants and shrubs. The Sweetwater Authority Board of Directors selected Rodriguez’s makeover as its 2021 Landscape Makeover winner.