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Rebates for WaterSmart Irrigation Devices

Rebates for WaterSmart irrigation devices are available in San Diego County to help property owners reduce expenses by improving water efficiency.

The rebates, offered for a limited time by the San Diego County Water Authority, provide significant savings on devices for outdoor landscapes.

Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes in this award-winning landscape makeover in Santee. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Bright Ideas Bring Padre Dam MWD Landscape Contest Winner to Life

Santee homeowners removed grass, replaced the turf with a colorful, WaterSmart landscape, and won a landscape makeover contest too.

Melissa and Josh Perrell’s new landscaping at their Santee home is bursting with bright colors. Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes. Even more impressive, it didn’t take a single drop of irrigation over the past year to keep it thriving.

The Perrells makeover project was selected by Padre Dam Municipal Water District as its 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest winner.

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

The Perrells decided to remove their lawn about two years ago. They wanted a low-water option that would look healthy year-round and require little maintenance. They were tired of spending time mowing it and using large amounts of water to keep the grass alive only to see it get brown during summer months.

The couple learned about the Turf Replacement Rebate Program and applied for the program. To remain within the budget provided, they decided to tackle the installation themselves. This gave them the opportunity to design their own landscape, support local businesses, and choose their own plants. The rebate is now up to $3 per square foot.

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“We chose plants that were hardy so we wouldn’t need to replace them or do too much maintenance,” said Melissa Perrell. “We also incorporated rosemary and lavender because we think it’s neat to be able to cook with and use the plants that you have.”

One week to a beautiful new watersmart landscape

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

After planning and designing their dream front yard, the Perrells spent four days removing their turf, installing rocks, installing irrigation, planting, and laying mulch.

They used a local nursery to select plants that fit their style and budget. By working straight through the process, their landscape completely transformed in less than a week. Their DIY cost-saving approach meant that they were reimbursed for 100% of the cost of their new front yard through the rebate program.

The Perrells enjoy compliments from Santee neighbors on their new landscape design. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Melissa Perrell loves the low-maintenance needed to keep the new landscape looking its best with no pruning or trimming, and the different heights and colors of the plants. While they have a drip irrigation system in place, the Perrells were able to turn it off and let their landscape be completely watered naturally last year. They recently turned the system on again as the weather began to heat up at the end of June.

“It’s cool that it was something we were able to do together,” said Melissa Perrell. “It’s fun because our neighbors watched us put it in and now when we see them they say ‘Your yard’s looking really nice!'” Read more

Helix Water District Creates WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape

Helix Water District recently completed a new demonstration landscape outside of its administration building in La Mesa. The project is intended to inspire and educate the surrounding communities to install WaterSmart landscaping, and it serves as an example that residents can use to help design their own landscaping.

demonstration garden, WaterSmart, Helix Water District

Helix Water District Creates WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape

Helix Water District recently completed a new demonstration landscape outside of its administration building in La Mesa. The project is intended to inspire and educate the surrounding communities to install WaterSmart landscaping, and it serves as an example that residents can use to help design their own landscaping.

The demonstration landscape includes three unique WaterSmart gardens on the streets around the building, including a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native landscape along the building’s main entrance on Quince Street. The three gardens exemplify different types of plants that thrive in the climate of San Diego County and only need half to one-fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs.

“Our new demonstration landscape shows customers that water-efficient landscaping is not just one style,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk. “You can choose plants that compliment your home and personal taste – there is an option for everyone.”

Helix Water District, demonstration garden, WaterSmart, native plants

The native plants in the demonstration garden show that WaterSmart landscaping not only saves water and maintenance costs but can be beautiful too. Photo: Helix Water District

Interactive garden gives residents visual design inspiration

Each garden is full of a variety of flowers of different colors and textures. Plant markers are placed to identify each plant and QR codes provide easy access to plant names, sun and water needs, mature size and photos when scanned through the camera of a smartphone.

The water district also created an interactive webpage https://hwd.com/demonstration-landscape where customers can make a list of their favorite plants and download design plans. Information on water-efficient irrigation and rebate programs is also available.

Helix Water District, WaterSmart, demonstration garden

The garden includes interactive elements such as descriptive signs with QR codes that visitors can scan to learn more about specific plants. Photo: Helix Water District

“We’ve made it easy for customers to learn about WaterSmart plants and landscaping,” said Gracyk.

WaterSmart landscapes provide homes for wildlife and pollinators

In addition to requiring less water, WaterSmart landscapes also require less maintenance and provide habitat for local wildlife and pollinators such as honeybees, birds and butterflies.

“Outdoor water use typically accounts for half of a home’s total water use,” said Helix Water District Board Vice President DeAna Verbeke. “With our new demonstration garden, we’re encouraging people to upgrade to a WaterSmart landscape by showing them that water-wise plants are not only sustainable but beautiful as well.”

The project was partially funded through a grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Helix Water District provides water treatment and distribution for 277,000 people in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas of Lakeside – east of downtown San Diego. Helix is also a founding member of The Water Conservation Garden, a nearly six-acre water-wise demonstration garden in El Cajon.

Helix Water District Logo Square

Helix Water District’s Demonstration Landscape is Complete

Helix Water District’s new demonstration landscape, located at its administration office in La Mesa, is complete. The project beautifies the neighborhood and inspires others to install WaterSmart landscaping.

Vista Irrigation District Logo

Vista Irrigation District Announces WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winners

Vista, Calif. — The Vista Irrigation District board of directors recognized customers for their entries in the district’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest.
The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient methods of irrigation.

Robin and Mike Zeigler received the “Best in District” award. It was important to Robin, Mike and their daughter, Kallie, to be water smart with their landscaping choices during a comprehensive landscape and irrigation upgrade. After taking a WaterSmart Landscape workshop last spring, the Zeiglers used their knowledge to transform their monotone front lawn to a colorful bloom filled garden reminiscent of their favorite European gardens.

Discover Climate-Appropriate Plants to Suit Your Landscape at a Free Workshop on March 24

Encinitas, CA—Olivenhain Municipal Water District and San Dieguito Water District are offering a free workshop to assist residents in selecting climate-appropriate plants for their landscapes. The workshop will be held Tuesday, March 24, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Encinitas Community Center, located at 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive in Encinitas.

Inspired by the San Diego County Water Authority's free landscape makeover classes, Vallecitos Water District employee Eileen Koonce transformed her own landscaping. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Vallecitos Water District Employee Leads By Example With WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce transformed the front yard at her new home into a beautiful water-efficient design with help from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscape Makeover Program.

As a new homeowner, when Koonce received her first water bill, she decided to figure out a way to reduce her water bill and her water usage. She realized the thirsty lawn covering the front yard had to go.

“As an employee of the District, we are always talking to customers about how they can reduce water use in their landscape, and what better time to put that theme to use than in my own yard,” said Koonce.

The Vallecitos Water District was hosting the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program at the time. After Koonce saw the great turnout, she decided she wanted to participate in the program.

Knowledgeable instructors guide participants

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Koonce said she enjoyed working with the instructors.

“They bring the language down to the do-it-yourselfers,” she said. “They walk you through every part of it and if you have questions, they can help you out. You feel empowered because you can understand the process.”

Koonce tackled most of the design work herself with the help of instructors, who are licensed landscape architects. They also helped Koonce pick out the plants and choose an irrigation system.

She also applied for a turf rebate through the Metropolitan Water District’s Turf Rebate Program. Koonce said the application process was easy for her to follow, and she met all the criteria for acceptance into the program.

Video tour of Eileen Koonce’s new landscaping

New landscape a pollinators’ paradise

Koonce wanted a garden that would attract butterflies and birds, especially hummingbirds. She says her top takeaway from the WaterSmart course is how many attractive landscape options exist. Many beautiful, flowering plants do not require a lot of water.

“The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series is a great way to gather the skills needed to make your front yard transformation happen,” said Michelle Landis, course instructor and Registered Landscape Architect. “The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series also teaches the skills needed to tap into the new, local turf removal rebates. We invite you to join us for one of the sessions above to transform your front yard into money-saving, WaterSmart design.”

Koonce said she realizes a $70 per month savings on her water bill since her landscape makeover. And no longer spends time mowing a lawn.

Register now for workshops and class series

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The WaterSmart education program offers free three-hour workshops and a four-class landscaping makeover series. Three-hour workshops are scheduled on weeknights and Saturdays from March through October.

The four-class series is currently enrolling participants for March in Encinitas and in El Cajon. The series is also open in Oceanside and San Diego in April. Find participation requirements and register for the free series online at WaterSmartSD.org.

Planning for the amount of space your new plants will need when fully grown will help your landscape thrive. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Make Space for New Plants

When choosing new plants for your landscape this fall, be sure to account for the space each plant will need as it matures. This will help avoid overcrowding in your landscape.

Proper plant placement, while predicting the mature plant’s size, also should limit the need for future pruning. This can help reduce the amount of maintenance required in the long run.

The spacing chart below helps to judge how many plants are needed per square foot, based on the mature size of the plants.

Plan for space needed at maturity

On your landscaping plan, use circles to note the size of every plant at maturity using a scale in which one inch equals four feet. Use colored pencils to note different water needs of each plant. That will make it easier to group plants into their proper irrigation zones (hydrozones).

Wide canopy trees that grow to 20 or 30 feet in diameter will significantly change the landscaping over time. Consider whether a tree will cover a large section of landscaping with shade that is currently getting full sun. Be sure to avoid placing plants that will need full sun underneath these trees.

Small but mighty

Select the smallest, healthiest plants possible, especially when choosing native plants. Once they are planted in properly prepared soil and watered wisely, small plants establish themselves more vigorously than plants raised in larger containers. Do not plant more than the space will allow for when the plants are fully grown.

Root depth matters

Take note of the root depth of plants when you place them. Note root depths on your landscape plan. Trees will be irrigated less frequently, but for a longer period of time. Groundcovers with shallower roots require more frequent, shorter periods of irrigation. Keep these types of plants in separate hydrozones.

Did you know that fall is the prime time for plant sales in San Diego County? Check out your nearest nursery or farmers market for native plants to help grow your landscape!

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

Creative WaterSmart Landscaping Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Bonita residents Efren and Ily Niervas won the Sweetwater Authority 2019 Landscape Contest after transforming their front yard from a traditional thirsty expanse of lawn to a watersmart landscaping approach. When the Niervas moved to their home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard, with a large lawn and assorted shrubbery, was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research. They also did online research. The research paid off, as the Niervas thoughtfully designed their own xeriscape plan for their creative watersmart landscaping.