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El Cajon Homeowner Wins Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon homeowner Christine Laframboise’s water-saving landscape design trading turf for a less thirsty approach was named the Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner.

The annual contest is held by water agencies throughout San Diego County to award one resident from their respective service area for their water-saving landscape. Otay selected Laframboise for her well-thought-out design, plant selection, maintenance, and methods for efficient irrigation.

El Cajon homeowner-Otay Water District-2021 Landscape Makeover Contest

El Cajon Homeowner Wins Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon homeowner Christine Laframboise’s water-saving landscape design trading turf for a less thirsty approach was named the Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner.

The annual contest is held by water agencies throughout San Diego County to award one resident from their respective service area for their water-saving landscape. Otay selected Laframboise for her well-thought-out design, plant selection, maintenance, and methods for efficient irrigation.

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs removing the old lawn. Pboto: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs by removing the old lawn. Photo: Otay Water District

El Cajon homeowner saves water

“We are proud to have customers like Christine who are committed to outdoor water-use efficiency and can demonstrate the many attractive features that homeowners can incorporate into their WaterSmart landscapes, especially at a time when California is facing drought conditions,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We encourage customers to take advantage of our free resources and rebates to help with their landscaping needs.”

The new landscaping eplaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping replaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District

Tearing out thirsty turf

Thirsty lawn once covered Laframboise’s 1,895-square-foot front yard. Its upkeep required large amounts of water. In 2014, she took landscaping classes presented by the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program.

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

Equipped with a new landscape plan, Laframboise enlisted the help of her husband and son to remove all the grass responsibly. She installed water-wise features such as mulch, stone, and low-water-use plants.

Her landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. The El Cajon homeowner decreased her overall water use by an average of 42%. She waters only two or three times a week and especially enjoys the pollinators attracted to her new yard. She can maintain it on her own and no longer needs a lawnmower.

Laframboise’s project qualified for a $2,140 rebate from the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program.

Landscaping project continues to evolve

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District

“My yard evolves as I learn more about different plants and where I live locally. I recently replaced dyed wood chips for shredded redwood bark. It is safer for pets, children, and wildlife,” said Laframboise. “I also plan to add more natives to attract more wildlife and further reduce my water use.”

The Otay Water District Board of Directors recognized Laframboise at its July 7 meeting with a certificate, a gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, an “Award-Winner” yard sign to display, and other promotional items.

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

Enter 2021 Landscape Makeover Contest, Share Your Skills

San Diego County residents who have converted to more water-efficient landscaping can enter the 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest hosted by 12 regional water agencies. Entry is as simple as submitting your photos and plant information by Friday, May 14. Eleven San Diego County Water Authority member agencies are participating, including the Helix Water District, Otay Water District, and Sweetwater Authority.

The Nieves family of Bonita won the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2021 Landscape Makeover

Enter 2021 Landscape Makeover Contest, Share Your Skills

San Diego County residents who have converted to more water-efficient landscaping can enter the 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest hosted by 12 regional water agencies. Entry is as simple as submitting your photos and plant information by Friday, May 14.

Eleven San Diego County Water Authority member agencies are participating, including the Helix Water District, Otay Water District, and Sweetwater Authority. See the full list on the WaterSmartSD website, along with contest rules. Winners selected by each participating agency receive a $250 grand prize to the nursery of their choice along with neighborhood bragging rights.

The coronavirus pandemic spurred interest in gardening worldwide as a safe and healthy activity, with no signs of slowing. Google Trend data shows searches for gardening rising in April 2021. A report by OnePoll in USA Today found 73% of Americans said spending more time outdoors has been therapeutic during the pandemic.

Inspire others to make watersmart changes

Lavender and daisies brighten this winning landscape design in the 2020 Landscape Contest. Photo: Helix Water District

In its 17th year, the contest highlights the benefits and beauty of water-efficient landscaping. It allows homeowners to share ideas and inspiration with other San Diego County residents.

Water-efficient landscape designs can be among the most effective ways to reduce overall water use. Fresh landscaping can also improve the appearance and the value of a home.

“If you have a new water-efficient landscape, we would love to hear your story,” said Vince Dambrose, with the Helix Water District. “The WaterSmart Landscape Contest is a great opportunity to get outside, share your landscape, and inspire others to make changes in their yards, too.”

Entries are judged for overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, efficient irrigation, and appropriate maintenance.

The beautiful, wheelchair accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood's daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Landscape Makeover

The beautiful, wheelchair-accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood’s daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District

After a decade of struggling with a thirsty, high-maintenance lawn, Otay Water District’s 2020 Landscape Contest winner Patricia Wood of El Cajon transformed her 3,850 square foot year into a beautiful and wheelchair accessible design with her daughter Kimberly in mind. She also decreased her water use decreased by an average of 27% overall.

“We are excited to launch the WaterSmart Landscape Contest this year,” said Eileen Salmeron with the Otay Water District. “Due to the pandemic, many of our customers have spent more time than usual working on their landscapes. For this year’s competition, we especially look forward to seeing how they’ve enhanced the curb appeal of their water-efficient gardens.”

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2021 Landscape Makeover

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

When Efren and Ily Niervas moved to their Bonita home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard with a large lawn and assorted shrubs was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research.

The project paid off, as the Niervas won the 2019 Sweetwater Authority Landscape contest with their creative and playful xeriscape plan.

“In previous years, our customers have designed beautiful water-saving landscapes,” said Leslie Payne with the Sweetwater Authority. “We’re looking forward to seeing this year’s creative designs. As customers look for ways to save water and lower their water bill, making water-efficient improvements to their yard is a great way to do both.”

To enter the contest with your 2020-2021 pandemic era makeover, go to landscapecontest.com, select your participating water agency, and then apply. Entrants can use a smartphone to take five to 10 photos of their water-efficient landscaping, share the reason behind the makeover, list the types of plants used and some of the benefits as a result. Water agencies encourage homeowners to submit before and after photos. The 2021 Landscape Makeover Contest deadline is Friday, May 14.

Otay Water District Offering Art Contest for Kids

The Otay Water District is looking for young artists to enter its annual “Water is Life” poster contest for students who live in the district’s service area. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade can win prizes for depicting the importance of water through original illustrations on posters. The district will select six winners based on the theme, originality, and visual and word clarity. Otay will also enter those works of art into a second contest held for water agencies throughout Southern California run by the Metropolitan Water District.

Helix Water District Part of Countywide Landscape Contest That Runs Through May

Helix is one of a dozen local water agencies taking part in a countywide WaterSmart Landscape Contest this year.

Previously known as the California-Friendly Landscape Contest, the annual competition, now in its 17th year, rewards water-efficient landscapes created by customers of Helix and other participating agencies around San Diego County.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Announces Launch of 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Spring Valley, Calif. – The Otay Water District announces the launch of the 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest awards the title of “Best in District” and a $250 nursery gift card to the customer judged to have the most attractive, water-efficient yard. The deadline to enter is Friday, May 14, 2021.

Water Conservation Garden-#FreeDayFriday-conservation

Water Conservation Garden Growing Strong With New #FreeDayFriday Program

In a normal year, The Water Conservation Garden in east San Diego County provides resources and education for 88,000 children and families annually. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, meeting the Garden’s mission took a little extra effort and creativity.

To remain open after its initial closure and re-opening in June 2020, the Garden now charges a small admission fee. Thanks to the new #FreeDayFriday initiative, supported by a donation match through the Rice Family Foundation, more than $60,000 in contributions now allows the Garden to offer free admission on the second Friday of each month, starting February 12.

“We can now create #FreeDayFriday so every person in the community, no matter their ability to pay, can enjoy all the Garden has to offer,” said Jennifer Pillsbury, Water Conservation Garden executive director and CEO.

The Garden continues operations under safety modifications

Outdoor fitness classes including yoga are popular at The Garden. Photo: The Garden

Outdoor fitness classes including yoga are popular at The Garden. Photo: The Garden

Since its reopening to the public on June 16, the Garden continues to offer programs with modifications under California health and safety guidelines due to the pandemic, including limiting visitor admissions and requiring masks.

The Garden’s series of fitness and wellness programs remain on site, including outdoor bodyweight workout classes and yoga sessions. Classes take place mornings and evenings, including a family yoga program for kids. The full schedule is available on the Garden’s new website.

Pam Meisner, AKA Ms Smarty Plants, offers The Garden's elementary school education program virtually. Photo: The Garden (screenshot)

Pam Meisner, AKA Ms. Smarty Plants, offers the Garden’s elementary school education program virtually. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s elementary school education program featuring Ms. Smarty Plants is now available online for grades K-2 and 3-6, including full lesson plans and video. Safely distanced Family Field Trips are also available for schools, homeschool groups, and individual classes.

“Our garden, not only is it an educational site, but we have classes that coincide with how to make what you see at our garden happens, where to buy the supplies, and how to do it,” said Pam Meisner, director of operations and education and founder of the Ms. Smarty Plants program. “We are the go-to place in San Diego for sowing beauty with low water use plants.”

“We can’t survive without water. But people don’t value that. One of our reasons being here is to show them the value of water and make that part of your life,” added Meisner.

Classes on sustainability, gardening, and art are currently offered online. Professional one-on-one phone or video consultations on water harvesting, and how to set up, retrofit, and maintain your irrigation or landscape are available by reservation through the website at thegarden.org/consultations

To support the Garden through the ongoing #FreeDayFriday program, visit FreeDayFridays.org.

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived the Water Conservation Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water DistrictHelix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water AuthorityCity of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College.

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements.

Lucia Perez Valles is one of six San Diego regional winners whose artwork appears in the 2012 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Calendar

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Six San Diego region students were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: MWD

Six students from the San Diego region were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” calendar. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. Students in grades K-12 submitted artwork through participating member agencies, after winning their local competition.

This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements on Dec. 17.

Winning students from the San Diego region

Jose Sabedra's winning entry appears on the June 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Jose Sabedra’s winning entry appears on the June 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Art from Jose Sabedra, a fourth-grader from Bostonia Language Academy and Mina Saeed, also a fourth-grader at Lexington Elementary School, appear in the calendar. They won the Helix Water District competition. Sabedra’s teacher is Sara Meier, and Saeed’s teacher is Holly Hemming. June features Sabedra’s art and Saeed’s winning work covers September.

Mina Saeed's winning entries appear on the September 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Mina Saeed’s winning entry appears on the September 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“We are always impressed by the creativity and talent of the student artists from our district, and this year was no exception,” said Jennifer Bryant, Helix Water District director of administrative services. “Congratulations again to Jose Sabedra and Mina Saeed – we are proud to see your water conservation artwork represent Helix in MWD’s 2021 Water is Life calendar.”

Lucia Perez Valles' winning entry appears on the July 2021 page. Photo: MWD 2021 calendar

Lucia Perez Valles’ winning entry appears on the July 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Sisters Lucia Perez Valles and Sofia Perez Valles both have winning artwork from the Otay Water District in the 2021 calendar. Both attend Olympian High School. Lucia is a sophomore, and Sonia is a senior. Lucia’s art appears on the July page, and Sonia’s appears in November.

Sofia Perez Valles' and Sarah Bernier's winning entries appear on the November 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Sofia Perez Valles’ and Sarah Bernier’s winning entries appear on the November 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“It is important to provide this opportunity to students in our service area, especially during the pandemic because water education is always important,“ said Eileen Salmeron, Otay Water District communications assistant. “We’re proud of all the participants from Otay, including the Valles sisters, for demonstrating their awareness of how essential water is to our everyday quality of life.”

From the Padre Dam Municipal Water District competition, sixth graders Sarah Bernier at Joan MacQueen Middle School in Kim Asfazadour’s class, and Violet Jacobson at Hill Creek Elementary School in Mrs. Kelly’s class both have posters in the calendar. Bernier’s art appears on the November page, and Jacobson’s on the December page. This is the second year in a row Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears in the MWD regional calendar.

Violet Jacobson's artwork appears on the December 2021 page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: MWD

Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears on the December 2021 calendar page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I am so proud of the talented students who are representing Padre Dam in the 2021 Water is Life Calendar,” said Emma Shea, Padre Dam Municipal Water District communications coordinator. “These young artists have done a fantastic job at portraying the importance of water conservation as a way of life.”

See the full calendar here

Artistic expression provides environmental education  

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar curates student art submitted from grades K-12 that carry a conservation message. Hundreds of entries are judged and 36 are featured in the annual calendar, which is distributed to about 13,000 recipients each year.