Water Conservation. It's For Life.

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Making Your Landscaping Drought-Tolerant


Turf Replacement Exhibit Tour from California DWR on Vimeo.

A drought-tolerant (or water-wise) landscape is one that allows for a beautiful healthy landscape with drought-tolerant, often native, plants, minimal supplemental irrigation and little to no adverse runoff. Here are six basic principles of a water-wise landscape:

  • Limit Your Grass: Grass is a huge source of outdoor water waste. Consider cutting back – or eliminating – your turf. At the very least, make sure you have a water-efficient sprinkler system (and make sure you monitor your watering…)
  • Appropriate Plant Selection: Select trees, shrubs and groundcovers based on their adaptability to your region’s soil and climate. California has an abundance of beautiful native plants which generally have lower water demands, fewer pest problems and less fertilizer needs than plants that have been brought into our state. The Sunset Plant Finder is a good tool to find the right plants for your area.
  • The Right Plants for the Right Soil: Knowing your soil and selecting the right kind of plants for your area is an important part of a water-wise landscape.
  • Efficient Irrigation: Most people water their landscaping more than it needs. The greatest waste of outdoor water is applying too much too often. Limit watering your lawn to a couple minutes per week to keep your grass alive and hydrated.
  • Mulch: Use mulch wherever possible. A good mulch conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Mulch also reduces weed populations, prevents soil compaction and keeps soil temperatures more moderate.
  • Maintenance: One of the best benefits of a water-wise landscape is that it requires less maintenance. A well-designed landscape can decrease maintenance by as much as 50 percent through reduced mowing; once-a-year mulching; elimination of non-California-friendly plants; and more efficient watering techniques.



Water-smart gardening can be daunting, but luckily there are a lot of resources out there for Californians. Many local water agencies and districts have created their own water-smart gardening websites, a great tool for anyone looking to update their landscaping. Check out this great site, which has links to more than 35 sites across the state: http://watersmartgardening.com/california.html

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Native Plants Save Water

Replacing water-consuming, high-maintenance, traditional landscapes and lawn with California native plants can reduce the average homeowner’s water consumption by 60% according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Once established, native plants can withstand little or no watering even in extreme drought conditions. Learn more about Gardening with California Native Plants.


Plant Right with Non-Invasive Plants

Before you plant, check out this important information about going water-wise with non-invasive plants.


Save Our Water and Our Trees

California’s trees, whether growing in nature or our urban forests, are affected by the historic drought. While continuing to save water, we must also keep our trees healthy through strategic maintenance with the limited amount of water available. Find out more about how and why to save your landscape trees, along with our blog post and helpful infographic to keep trees healthy during the drought.


More Info on Water-Wise Gardening

Plant California has a wealth of tips and information on water-wise gardening in the Golden State. Check out their special water-wise guide as well as their fall planting tips.


Own a Pool or Spa?

Our partners at Let’s Pool Together have a wealth of information on how to save water with a pool or a spa.


Additional Resources

Visit this collection of websites for more resources on creating your own drought-tolerant landscape.

Of course, be sure to visit our Sprinklers 101 section for more information on watering and irrigation.