By Luis Generoso
City of San Diego
Beautiful landscapes are a highlight of living in San Diego’s mild year-round climate. Healthy landscapes contribute to our quality of life, economic vitality, and world-famous standing as a top tourist destination. But, San Diego’s semi-arid conditions also mean limited rainfall, which to many means we must limit water usage. But conservation is not just about using less water; it’s about using only what is necessary. It’s important to know that if you use water wisely, you can grow a beautiful landscape that provides a number of positive benefits.
While this may not be the traditional water conservation message, the City of San Diego’s Water Department recognizes individual preferences and wants to assist homeown-ers in achieving significant water savings through proper landscape maintenance. This doesn’t necessarily mean replacing existing landscaping with rock or cement.
“The key to healthy, efficient landscaping is to water it only as much as it needs it. Over-watering landscape is a waste of water and is what we would like to avoid, but efficiently watering landscaping benefits all of us,” says Dan Carney Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego’s Water Conservation Program.
Landscaping is good for the environment. Plants provide an environmental value that nothing else matches. For instance, a lawn just 50’ x 50’ absorbs carbon dioxide and releases enough oxygen into the atmosphere to meet the needs of a family of four. Studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency indicate the average oxygen content of our air is 20 percent, but it has been measured as low as 12-15 percent in larger, more polluted cities. Plants and turf not only absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere, but the plant system leaves, roots, and soil combine to remove toxins from the air.
As well as cleaning the air, plants and turf also reduce temperatures. A key advantage to landscaping around homes in San Diego is the reduction in ambient air temperatures. Research has shown that in summer, lawns are up to 30 degrees cooler than paved areas and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil. In addition to having a cooling effect, landscaping prevents runoff and erosion of top soil, can function as a fire retardant around your home, absorbs noise, and according to the American Nursery and Landscape Association, can add between 7 and 15 percent to your home’s value.
Maintaining landscaping with regular, appropriate watering provides a gathering place for your family and cleans the air. A healthy, vibrant landscape does not need to be replaced by rock gardens in an effort to conserve water. Use and enjoy your landscape, but don’t over-water it. An added benefit to appropriately watering landscape is that it requires less maintenance, allowing you more time to enjoy your landscape. If you need more information on how to appropriately water your landscape, the City of San Diego’s Water Conservation Program has an on-line landscape watering calculator that will provide you a customized watering schedule, visit www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation.
The Water Conservation Program reduces water demand through promoting or providing incentives for the installation of hardware that provides permanent water savings, and by providing services and information to help San Diegans make better decisions about water use. For more information about Water Conservation, visit www.sandiego.gov/water or call 619.515.3500.