Goodbye Lawn. Welcome Water Efficient Gardens!

Designed by Marilyn Waterman

As a measure to deal with California's historical drought 6 years ago, more and more people have been saying "Goodbye" to their lawns and welcoming water efficient gardens. Many people are considering abut it, but feel they would like to find out more information. Below are some information about the drought, why a garden can save water, and successful lawn to garden conversion cases.

The California’s Historical Drought, and Outlook

From 2011-2016, California experienced a 6-year, historical drought. At its worst point, in April 2015, the water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack was only 5% of normal. Ground water was relied on heavily to meet the needs for water. In April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating a 25% reduction of urban water use in California.

Rains in fall and winter of 2016 brought significant relief to this drought. However, the ground water has been so depleted that it will take lots of recharge and a long time to recover. In the future, with climate change, a 25% population increase from 40 million now to 50 million in 2050*, and an economic expansion, water the resource will just become scarcer. We can no longer afford to use water the old way. Water conservation will be our way of life going forward.

Why Water Efficient Garden?

Outdoor watering for a lawn typically accounts for 30-60% of a California household’s water consumption. For many households, it is the number one area for water consumption. As such, lawn watering represents one of the biggest opportunities for water conservation. By switching to a water efficient garden, on average, a household can save 15-40% of water. For a household that has a 1000 square feet lawn, if it is converted to a water efficient garden, suppose outdoor watering accounts for half of the total consumption, the water saved would be enough for 2 months of indoor use!

Why Can a Water Efficient Garden Save So Much Water?

Plants: most of the plants in a water efficient garden are native or drought tolerant, which need very little water once established.
Drip irrigation system: compared with other irrigation methods such as sprinkling, drip uses 30-50% less water.
Mulch: Can effectively reduce water evaporation and keep the soil moist.
Permeable surface: allows rain water to seep deep into the soil which can used later by the plants.
Rain sensor with a smart controller: automatically delays watering when it detects rain, saving the water.

What Are the Benefits of a Water Efficient Garden?

Conserving water: A water efficient garden can conserve water by 15-40% compared with a lawn.
Saving on water bills: Save water, save money. Also, since most plants in the garden are low maintenance native or drought tolerant plants, maintenance cost can be saved too.
Providing food for bees and other pollinators: they have been feeding on the same native plants, such as sages, aster, and red buckwheat, found in most water efficient gardens for hundreds of thousands of years. The bees's population has been on a decline in the last several years, making it more critical to provide the food and environment for them to thrive.
A beautiful view for the house: A well designed garden, with beautiful plants and blossom, is a view to enjoy and can add to the house's overall appeal.
Connection to nature: Watch the plants grow, flowers blossom, bees dance and hummingbirds feed. Connect with nature in a beautiful way.

The Landscape Conversion Rebate Programs

In an effort to encourage conversion from lawn to water efficient gardens, water agencies and companies across the state offer rebate programs, with some of them listed here. Check with your local water agency to find out.
California Turf Replacement Initiative
Save Our Water Turf Replacement Rebate
Cal Water Rebates and Programs
SoCal Water $mart Residential Rebates
Santa Clara Water District Landscape Conversion Rebates

Successful Landscape Conversion 1: From Brown to California Native Charm

Installment time: 3 days
Cost: Less than $5000 (before rebate)
Rebate received: Yes (Santa Clara Water District's Landscape Conversion Rebates)
Testimonial: "It was easy working with the designer and contractor. The designer took care of all the rebate application paper work from end to end, and the project was done seamlessly." -- Mark N.
Details: The brown lawn has been an eye sore to the owner of the house for quite a while. He had been wanting to replace it with something more beautiful, but did not know where to start. More...

Successful Landscape Conversion 2: From Brown to Princess's Floral Dream

Installment time: One week
Cost: Less than $5000 (before rebate)
Rebate received: Yes (Santa Clara Water District's Landscape Conversion Rebates)
Testimonial: "After conversion, my front yard looks great ... clean and neat. It also saves me a lot of money. We use much less water now, and don't need to hire hands for maintenance." S. L.
Details: "I want to get rid of the brown lawn, like yesterday! and I want a garden of flowers! " More...

Successful Landscape Conversion 3: From a Weedy Turf to a Dream Garden

Installment time: One week
Cost: Less than $5000 (before rebate)
Rebate received: Yes (Santa Clara Water District's Landscape Conversion Rebates)
Details: Against a full wall of Camilla trees, Lucy (not her real name)’s lawn used to be green and lush. With the drought, however, parts of the turf just went bare, with the remaining thin and weedy. More...