Posts

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomerys' blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Photo: Helix Water District

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

Compared to the previous lawn, the Montgomerys’ blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size. The thriving landscape creates privacy from the road, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Over the two-month billing period ending in May 2020, this home used 40% less water than the average Helix Water District customer.

Privacy and low-maintenance style took priority

The Montgomerys' new design incorporates a variety of native and low water use plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomerys’ new design incorporates a variety of blooming flowers and herbs. Photo: Helix Water District

They purchased their home in 2014. The couple were not happy with the existing lawn’s water consumption, or the lack of privacy it offered. The front window faces two streets. They made unsuccessful attempts on their own to reduce the lawn’s water use. In addition, the front yard sloped towards the house, causing moisture to form in the home’s basement during rainy weather.

The couple toured numerous gardens in East County with the California Native Plant Society’s native garden tours to collect design ideas. They hired a landscape designer in fall 2018, who worked to create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants, while still matching the charm and character of their 1950s cottage style home.

The Montgomerys worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants. Photo: Helix Water District

Tim and Brianna Montgomery worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring a green color palette. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our landscape designer gave us the design to meet our needs and created a plan so that we could do most of the work ourselves,” said Brianna Montgomery. “We only had to hire a contractor to do hardscape work and install the new water-efficient irrigation system. We did all of the other work ourselves, including grading the front, amending our soil with fresh compost, purchasing and installing the new plants, and adding mulch according to the design.”

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Landscaping

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District

The year-old landscape boasts a filled-in appearance and a wide variety of vibrant and colorful plants.

To offer privacy, create shade, and height, the landscape has a fruitless olive tree and a bright desert willow. Low water use daisies add lushness to the landscape. Shrubs and groundcover provide contrast with the home’s red brick front, including soft blue-greens from lavender, Mexican bush sage, and fescue grasses; emerald-colored rosemary; yellow-green rockrose; and splashes of purple, yellow, white, reds and pinks among the landscape’s many flowers.

Efficient new irrigation completes the transformation

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The efficient irrigation system includes micro sprays, drip irrigation, and a smart, weather-based irrigation controller. The landscape diverts and captures rainwater from the front roof and diverts the water to the back yard through a series of French drains. The new rainwater diversion prevents moisture from forming in the home’s basement and also provides additional water for the plants in the home’s backyard.

The new landscape is now more welcoming both to people and pollinators, birds, lizards, and other wildlife now calling the landscape home.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better landscape,” said Brianna Montgomery. “Our landscape fits the energy of our home and ourselves, and we loved being a part of the transformation every step of the way.”

Lavender and daisies brighten the winning landscape design. Photo: Helix Water District

Brianna and Tim Montgomery were recognized at the June 17 Helix Water District virtual board meeting. They received a $250 gift card, an award certificate, and a WaterSmart contest winner sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the winning landscape project will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other participating local water agencies, and on the district’s website.

Read more

Helix Announces 2020 Landscape Contest Winner

Helix Water District named Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa as the winner of its 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

More Than $16 Million Provided to Nine Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects Around the US

The Bureau of Reclamation is providing more than $16 million to nine congressionally authorized Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse projects. This funding, part of the WaterSMART Program, is for the planning, design, and construction of water recycling and reuse projects in partnership with local government entities.

2020 Landscape Makeover Competition Opens Call For Entries

Fourteen water agencies in San Diego County seek the best in landscaping makeover projects for the regional WaterSmart 2020 Landscape Makeover competition. The annual contest offers the opportunity to showcase residential waterwise landscaping as a way to inspire other homeowners to consider replacing water-guzzling turf based designs.

If your cat is using the kitchen faucet as a water fountain, you might need to fix a leak during Fix-A-Leak Week 2020. Photo: Stratman2/Pixabay

Take Ten Minutes to Track Down Leaks During Fix-A-Leak Week 2020

Easily fixed water leaks in American households account for nearly one trillion gallons of water wasted annually. The average household leaks nearly 10,000 gallons of water every year. This would wash 300 loads of laundry and could cost you an additional 10% on your water bill.

Fix-A-Leak Week 2020 is March 16-22. It was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is supported by WaterSense partners across the U.S. and Canada, including the San Diego County Water Authority and many of its 24 member agencies.

The Sweetwater Authority will join other water agencies in California, Texas, and Oregon for a Fix-A-Leak Week 2020 “Twitter Party” to help consumers virtually with tips on tracking down leaks and other ways to save water.

In 2019, “leak detectives” across the U.S. put their tools, checklists, and dye tablets to work in bathrooms, kitchens, at faucets and spigots around their homes and joined EPA in the annual Fix a Leak Week by donning their leak detective hats and grabbing their sleuthing gear to find and fix common household leaks. Leaks were detected and fixed in bathrooms – toilets, showerheads and faucets, outside at spigots and in many other locations.

It takes just 10 minutes to perform a quick search of your home for leaks. Many of the most common leaks are easy for anyone to fix such as worn-out toilet flappers, leaky showerheads, and dripping faucets. They require basic tools and hardware.

Here are a few handy tips for finding leaks:

  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
  • Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 10 minutes, you have a leak. Flush immediately after this to avoid staining the tank.
  • Turn on your shower and look for drips or stray sprays you can stop with tape.
  • Under sinks, check for pooling water under pipes. Look for rust around joints and edges caused by leaking water.
  • Check under your water heater tank for pooling water, rust, or other signs of leaks.
  • Check all spigots outside. Fixing a leak might be as simple as securing the hose connection, or replacing a worn-out washer.

Find more guides and videos you might find helpful in finding and fixing leaks on the EPA’s “Fix-A-Leak Week” website.

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.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD Invites Fourth Graders to Enter Annual Water-Smart Art Contest 

Encinitas, CA—Olivenhain Municipal Water District encourages fourth-grade students living or attending school within its service area to enter by April 6 the annual poster contest hosted by North County water agencies.

Rocks and small boulders are both aesthetically pleasing and useful in your landscape. Photo: Otay Water District

Contour Your Landscape

When planning your landscape, look first at the terrain you’re working with. You can use the contours of your existing land – depressions and slopes – for guidance when planning your landscape grading. If your yard is flat, you’ll need to move soil and features around to create more rain-holding contour areas.

A soil percolation test can be very helpful in preparing your soil. You want to make it as much of a water-retaining sponge as possible before getting to work on rainwater capture plans.

NOTE: If you have existing hillsides, it’s best to get professional advice before grading or other significant changes. Before any digging, call Dig Alert 8-1-1 or visit digalert.org to be sure you won’t hit any underground utility lines.

Move water with gravity

Basins and swales are shallow depressions or channels no more than 24 inches deep on gently sloped or nearly flat landscapes. Basins and swales move water over short distances. With these contours, gravity will move water around to where you want it.

Small, shallow depressions work best in clay soil areas, while sandy soils may accommodate deeper depressions up to two feet. Channels can be planted or lined with rocks and small boulders to resemble natural creek beds.

Use rainwater to your advantage

By planning your landscape so that you don’t have low spots with no plants, you prevent wasting rainwater through runoff. You can also avoid fungus and rot from standing water. Plants in and around the depressions capture and sink small volumes of surface water so that all the rainwater you capture can be used.

Berms are mounds of raised soil, usually planted, that can border basins and swales or be used alone. They help contain and move water around, increasing the holding capacity of basins and swales.

Boulders can add points of interest and slow down water runoff in your landscaping. Boulders also are useful to retain small berms or the edges of swales.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Plants on the Nifty 50 list have been selected because they are attractive, available in retail nurseries, non-invasive and thrive in San Diego County. Photo: Capri23auto/Pixabay

The Nifty 50: Best Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes

Are you looking for new plants or trees to upgrade your WaterSmart landscape? Check out the Nifty 50. These 50 plants and trees thrive in San Diego County’s arid climate, and the rainy fall and winter are a perfect time to introduce them into your landscape. They are attractive, non-invasive, easy to maintain and drought-tolerant.

Timing is important

During the first 12 months in your garden, called the establishment period, new plants need extra water. Before bringing them home, make sure to check your irrigation system and water pressure.

A good resource for estimating the right amount of water for your landscape is the City of San Diego’s Landscape Watering Calculator.

The calculator is based on historical weather data for your zip code and can tell you more about water requirements for the plants, soil and sprinkler type in each of your irrigation zones. It will work for any location in San Diego County.

Map out your landscape

Once you have an efficient irrigation system set up, choose your new plants. Trees are a great way to line your property and block out the sun, noise and wind. They can help you collect rainwater and provide a beautiful backdrop for other plants.

Certain types of shrubs pair well aesthetically and attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. California Lilac, Manzanita, and Toyon are good examples of shrubs that will bring pollinators and other wildlife to your garden.

To add some texture and dimension to your landscape, look for colorful groundcovers like Trailing Lantana or Stonecrop.

Authentic means sustainable

Plants native to the region have adapted over thousands of years, and native animal species depend on them as well. There are thousands of ground covers, grasses, succulents, perennials, shrubs, vines and trees to choose from in addition to the Nifty 50. For more information, go to WaterSmartSD.org.