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How to Properly Install Irrigation for a New Water-Saving Home Landscape

Successfully installing water-saving irrigation starts long before you get out your tools. You need to complete an assessment of your landscape plan’s specific water needs, draw a complete plan showing the layout, then select your irrigation and purchase your irrigation equipment. If your soil needs amendments (and it almost certainly does), you must get this done first. With all of this important prep work complete, you can start to implement the design.

Water-Use Efficiency Rebates for Businesses

As extreme drought grips the Southwest, businesses across California are taking a variety of water-saving actions. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer business rebates and other incentives to help businesses save money while saving water.

Rebates-Businesses-Drought-Water Conservation

Water-Use Efficiency Rebates for Businesses

As extreme drought grips the Southwest, businesses across California are taking a variety of water-saving actions. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer business rebates and other incentives to help businesses save money while saving water.

State ban on commercial turf

The state’s watering ban was put into place on May 24, 2022 and applies to non-functional turf grass defined as grass that is “solely ornamental” and not regularly used for recreational purposes or community events. The restriction does not apply to yards at individual homes and includes exemptions for sports fields and grassy areas made for community gatherings. Watering trees is allowed and encouraged. Enforcement of the state regulations is at the discretion of the local water agency.

Incentives for business property owners

From turf conversions to incentives for converting industrial water systems to recycled water service, there are numerous opportunities to improve water efficiency on commercial properties. To learn more and find more details, visit SDCWA.org. Available rebates and resources for business property owners include:

  • Through a partnership between the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program and the San Diego County Water Authority, businesses in unincorporated areas of the county are eligible for newly enhanced water-use efficiency rebates in 2021. The Waterscape Rebate Program saves money for residential, commercial, and agricultural customers who make landscape upgrades to improve the region’s climate resilience.
  • SoCalWaterSmart’s Commercial Turf Replacement Program offers great incentives to HOAs and commercial business landscapes. Businesses that convert 1 acre or more of irrigated landscapes, can also apply for the WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program which offers rebates for irrigation devices such as controllers, nozzles, and drip irrigation.
  • The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California On-Site Retrofit Program provides financial incentives to public or private property owners to convert potable water irrigation or industrial water systems to recycled water service.
  • Certified landscape irrigation auditors provide free, on-site inspections, or WaterSmart Irrigation Checkups, and written site-specific water-saving recommendations for qualifying commercial properties in the Water Authority’s service area.

San Diego has reliable supply

Declining water availability on the Colorado River and worsening drought conditions statewide underscore the importance of collective actions to ensure reliable water supplies.

“We are committed as a region to answering the Governor’s call to step up conservation efforts in the face of extreme hot and dry conditions statewide,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “We are collaborating with the Department of Water Resources’ Save Our Water program, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and our 24 member agencies on public outreach and education efforts this summer to stop water waste and increase conservation efforts to stretch our water supplies.”

The San Diego region has prepared for dry periods and water supplies will continue to sustain the San Diego economy and quality of life. The San Diego County Water Authority is working with its partners at the regional, state, and federal levels to advance water management solutions for the Southwest.

Details on the Water Authority’s programs and drought response and on state regulations go to sdcwa.org.

Manchester Pipeline Projects Continue with Installation of Recycled Water Pipeline

Olivenhain Municipal Water District is beginning construction this week on a new recycled water pipeline in Encinitas along Manchester Avenue and South El Camino Real from Via Poco to Tennis Club Drive. Once complete, customers connecting to this new pipeline will irrigate with recycled water, which will reduce demand for imported potable water by more than 10 million gallons every year.

Jeanne Reutunger transformed a neglected front yard into a beautiful native garden and the winner of the 2022 City of Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: City of Escondido

Escondido Landscape Makeover Winner Goes from Weeds to Wow

When Jeanne Reutlinger moved to her Escondido home in 2019, the neglected front yard was full of weeds, baked by the sun, and car exhausts from the street. Three years later, Reutlinger’s vision and hard work for a natural low maintenance habitat created a pollinator’s paradise full of native plants. Her efforts won the 2022 City of Escondido’s Landscape Makeover Contest.

When Jeanne Reutlinger moved to her Escondido home in 2019, the neglected front yard was full of weeds, baked by the sun and car exhausts from the street. Photo: City of Escondido

When Jeanne Reutlinger moved to her Escondido home in 2019, the neglected front yard was full of weeds, baked by the sun and car exhausts from the street. Photo: City of Escondido

“I wanted to do my own planting and create a colorful water-wise garden to attract butterflies and small birds,” says Reutlinger. At age 84, she got a helping hand transforming the “forlorn lawn” full of weeds, ruts, and dead tree roots from her grandson, John, who helped with extensive plantings. He also assisted his grandmother in creating a natural bird bath from an old tree stump that the birds love.

Creativity, ingenuity, and patience pay off

The award-winning design used plant cuttings and other cost-saving measures. Photo: City of Escondido

“I did the flower, succulent, small shrub and ground cover planting myself over the past three years. It has been a continual work in progress,” said Reutlinger. “I planted colorful heat tolerant plants and clippings from friends and neighbors that require little water and thrive in the heat. I collected rocks and cast-off bricks to make several different beds for my plantings. I dig around each plant and make a berm of soil to hold the water in to prevent runoff.”

Reutlinger said the cost for the makeover was minimal due to her creativity and by tackling the work herself. “It is easy to start plants from cuttings and saves money if one is patient to nurture the little cuttings,” said Reutlinger.

Native garden nurtures pollinators

The native plant garden attracts pollinators including endangered Monarch butterfliest. Photo: City of Escondido landscape makeover

The native plant garden attracts pollinators, including endangered Monarch butterflies. Photo: City of Escondido

The yard is filled with California Poppies, giant Gazania Daisies (which reseed themselves constantly), and marigolds which Reutlinger replants each year with seeds from the previous year’s flowers. Reutlinger planted bougainvillea, rosemary, sea lavender, lantana, succulents, and multiple milkweed varieties. Reutlinger adds seasonal colorful nursery flowers in the spring to enjoy during cooler, rainier weather.

“The many birds with their cheerful songs that enjoy my birdbath in the mornings are a delight,” said Reutlinger. “It is a joy to see the many Monarch butterflies that have made their home in my yard with the various milkweed plantings in my garden. I have been able to watch the full life cycle of the Monarch from egg to growing caterpillar to chrysalis to beautiful adult butterfly right in my own yard.”

Colorful yard draws compliments

The results of Jeanne Reutlinger’s hard work benefit her entire neighborhood. Photo: City of Escondido

Reutlinger says she gets compliments from her neighbors, who enjoy the beauty and color her yard adds to the neighborhood. “It was once a bleak and barren corner and has now been transformed with a lot of love and enjoyment over the years into a water-wise habitat for birds and butterflies and it gives smiles to all who pass by,” she said.

Reutlinger chooses to hand water her plants, allowing her to control the amount of water each plant receives. She also relishes what she calls sunshine therapy. “Hand watering gets me out of the house every day to enjoy my garden and soak up the vitamin D and get the exercise and movement that my 84-year-old self needs,” said Reutlinger.

Up to 80% of local household water consumption is outdoors. The annual Landscape Makeover Contest aims to inspire residents to consider a landscape makeover by showcasing the beauty and variety of water-efficient landscapes.

Interested residents can learn more about WaterSmart Living, including the 2023 contest and classes on the WaterSmartSD website.

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

Plant Installation Brings Your New WaterSmart Landscape to Life

With your new WaterSmart landscaping plans complete, demolition and turf removal done, and your new irrigation system in place, it’s time to get started on the plant installation. For most homeowners, this is the most rewarding part of the process seeing your new landscaping come to life.

Native plant-sustainability-garden-landscapetracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Image: Water Authority plant installation

Plant Installation Brings Your New WaterSmart Landscape to Life

With your new WaterSmart landscaping plans complete, demolition and turf removal done, and your new irrigation system in place, it’s time to get started on the plant installation. For most homeowners, this is the most rewarding part of the process seeing your new landscaping come to life.

Review the following tips to help you through the plant installation and placement process

Step 1: Use a garden hose to outline groundcover areas to help you visualize the design before you start the installation.

Step 2: Set the plants while still in their containers, in their approximate location per your planting design plan. Take a step back and review. View your plant placements from various angles. Make any adjustments to the design now to avoid having to dig up and relocate any plants.

Be aware many drought-tolerant landscapes look sparse for the first few years. As your plants reach their mature size, they will fill in over time. Be sure to allow proper spacing to allow each plant to grow to its full size.

Step 3: Dig plant holes twice the width of the plant root ball and just deep enough to bury the roots. Water the hole before placing the plant. When planted, the top of the root ball should be even with or slightly above soil level.

Colorful, water-wise plants replaced a thirsty, labor intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant's winning 2019 landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Colorful, water-wise plants replaced a thirsty, labor intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant’s winning 2019 landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Step 4: Once in the hole, the plant should be packed firmly into place with the original, compost-amended soil from the hole. Extra dirt can create a berm around the plant to hold water.

Step 5: Cover the planting area with a two- to three-inch-deep layer of mulch. Keep mulch a few inches away around the plant stems to prevent rot. Using mulch has many benefits. It can help suppress weeds, enrich the soils, protect plant roots from compaction, provide a finished look to your garden, and mulch conserves water.

Step 6: Monitor your garden to ensure your plants are getting adequate water. Even native plant species and drought-tolerant plants need water to get established. This can take a year. To minimize your watering needs while your plants are getting established, install your landscape in the fall months before the months of most significant rainfall in San Diego, generally December through March.

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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 WaterSmart.SD.org.)

Chula Vista Homeowners Win Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Chula Vista homeowners Bryan and Denee Felber earned “Best in District” honors as the winner of the Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Converting 2,143 square feet of turf to a drought-tolerant garden in 2015 continues to save water and pay off for the Felbers while beautifying their neighborhood.

Bryan and Denee Felber's conversion from turf to low-water use landscaping earned the Chula Vista homeowners the 2022 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Contest win. Photo: Otay Water District

Chula Vista Homeowners Win Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Chula Vista homeowners Bryan and Denee Felber earned “Best in District” honors as the winner of the Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Converting 2,143 square feet of turf to a drought-tolerant garden in 2015 continues to save water and pay off for the Felbers while beautifying their neighborhood.

The Felbers live in the District’s division 4, represented by Board Director and Treasurer Jose Lopez.

A dry riverbed helps redirect water runoff away from sidewalks and storm drains. Photo: Otay Water District

A dry riverbed helps redirect water runoff away from sidewalks and storm drains. Photo: Otay Water District

“Otay is proud to see that our contest winners have taken the necessary steps to limit their outdoor water use and make their home drought resilient,” said Jose Lopez. “Now that our region is facing dry conditions, we encourage customers to do the same by taking full advantage of the programs and rebates available, which will make a significant difference in preserving our local water supply.”

Making a WaterSmart change

Bryan and Denee Felber's property before the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Bryan and Denee Felber’s property before the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Maintenance demands and high costs to keep their lawn vibrant and green motivated the Felbers to make a change, beginning in 2015. They started by participating in the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program, which teaches residents how to create and maintain a beautiful yard suiting their needs while also saving water. The  Felbers used what they learned during the planning stages of their project.

Bryan and Denee Felber's property after the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Bryan and Denee Felber’s home after the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

The landscape makeover qualified for turf rebates through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Water Authority. They received a rebate to replace 5,007 square feet of their front and back yards and later replaced 202 square feet of turf in a side yard.

A new drip irrigation system replaced spray nozzles. Plants are watered on an automated schedule three days a week. When rain is expected, the system is turned off or delayed for a few days. A dry riverbed running across the landscape captures and directs rainfall, minimizing water runoff.

New landscape design pays off

The Feibers used beautiful low-water use plants to replace more than 2,000 square feet of turf. Photo: Otay Water District

The Felbers used beautiful low-water-use plants to replace more than 2,000 square feet of turf. Photo: Otay Water District

The completed landscape allowed the Felbers to reduce their overall water use by approximately 33% compared to the years before upgrading.

When asked if they recommend others to consider upgrading their yards, Bryan Felber responded, “Absolutely!”

“It’s easier and requires much less time to maintain, and it saves money,” said Bryan. “Designed well, it can be beautiful with far less water, reducing water demand and preserving its supply.”

The Otay Water District board of directors will recognize the couple at its August meeting with a certificate of recognition, a gift certificate to a local nursery of their choice, a yard sign, 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.) 

Installing WaterSmart Living Irrigation

Successfully installing WaterSmart Living irrigation starts long before you get out your tools. You need to complete an assessment of your landscape plan’s specific water needs, draw a complete plan showing the layout, then select your irrigation and purchase your irrigation equipment. If your soil needs amendments (and it almost certainly does), you must get this done first. With all of this important prep work complete, you can start to implement the design.