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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Water-Smart Landscaping

Water-smart landscaping produces attractive landscapes because it uses designs and plants that are well suited to local conditions.

Water is our most precious natural resource; without it, there is no life. Yet judging by our water use and consumption practices, many Americans take it for granted.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the average American uses approximately 80 gallons of water per day—that’s nearly 260 gallons used every day by the average family.

More and more Americans are demonstrating their water smarts indoors by retrofitting their homes with WaterSense labeled plumbing products and ENERGY STAR® certified appliances. But outdoors, especially in the summer, the amount of water used by a household can exceed the amount used for all other purposes in the entire year. This is especially true in hot, dry climates.

Gardening and lawn care account for the majority of this seasonal increase. Of the estimated 26.6 billion gallons of water used daily by households in the United States, nearly 8 billion gallons, or 30 percent, is devoted to outdoor water use. In dry climates, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent. The majority of this is used for watering lawns and landscaping. In fact, it is estimated that the average American home uses 50,500 gallons of water outdoors each year, mostly for irrigation (DeOreo et al., 2016).

Many mistakenly believe that stunning gardens and beautiful lawns are only possible through extensive watering, fertilization, and pesticide application. As this brochure

demonstrates, eye-catching gardens and landscapes that save water and protect the environment are, in fact, easily achieved by employing water-smart landscaping. 

For specific information about how to best apply water-smart landscaping principles in your geographical area, consult with your county extension service and local garden and

nursery centers. Local governments and water utilities also possess a wealth of information, suggestions, and sometimes incentives for using water more efficiently in all aspects of

your life, including landscaping.


Napa water customers should visit to find the latest incentives to make their yards water-smart, including the Cash For Grass Rebate and our generous discount on the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller.

Key Tips To Remember When It Comes To Water-Smart Landscaping:

• Go native or choose plants that need less water. Once established, native, regionally appropriate, and low water-using plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. If you’re designing a new landscape or just sprucing up your current landscape, be sure to consider the water needs of the plants you choose.

• Group plants according to their water needs. Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs into specific “hydrozones” reduces water use by allowing you to water to each zone’s specific needs. Turf areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs.

• Maintain healthy soils. Healthy soils are the basis for a water-smart landscape; they effectively cycle nutrients, minimize runoff, retain water, and absorb excess nutrients, sediments, and pollutants.

• Be selective when adding turf areas. Turfgrass receives the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping. To improve the aesthetics of your landscape and better manage outdoor water use, select drought-tolerant turfgrass and plant turf only where it has a practical function, such as children’s play areas.

• Water wisely. Know your plants’ water needs and avoid watering during the heat of the day. If you have an irrigation system, make regular adjustments to ensure proper watering. And be sure to look for the WaterSense label on components for your system.

• Go small. Use microirrigation on plant beds, shrubs, and trees and reserve spray irrigation for turf areas.

• Use mulch. Incorporate mulch around shrubs and garden plants to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and prevent erosion. Adding organic matter and aerating soil can improve its ability to 

hold water.

• Provide regular maintenance. Replace mulch around shrubs and garden plants at least once per year, and remove weeds and thatch as necessary.

• To see how some of your neighbors have become water-smart, be sure to attend the Climate-Friendly Garden Tour on Saturday, May 18. Details can be found at

In short, plan and maintain your landscape with these principles of water efficiency in mind, and it will continue to be attractive and healthy while requiring less maintenance and less water.

Don’t let your yard control your water bill.

With today’s common watering practices, up to 50 percent of the water applied to lawns and gardens is lost through evaporation, wind, runoff, or being pushed beyond the root zone because it is applied too quickly or in excess of the plants’ needs. The goal of efficient irrigation is to reduce these losses by applying only as much water as is needed to keep your plants healthy.

To promote the strong root growth that supports plant health, water deeply and only when the plant needs it. For clay soils, it is recommended to split watering into multiple shorter cycles to allow water time to soak deeper. Irrigating with consideration to soil type, the condition of your plants, the season, and weather conditions—rather than on a fixed schedule—significantly improves your watering efficiency and results in healthier plants. Grouping plants according to similar water needs also makes watering easier and more efficient. Lawns, gardens, and landscapes can be irrigated manually or with an automatic irrigation system. Manual watering with a handheld hose tends to be the most waterefficient method. Research suggests that households with in-ground sprinkler systems used 50 percent more water than those without. (Mayer and DeOreo, 1998).


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