- Public Works
- Environmental Sustainability
- Water Conservation
Introduction | Outdoor Water Conservation | Indoor Water Conservation | Best Practices | Rebates & Giveaways
With a changing climate, irregular rain patterns, and growing populations, water resources have been unpredictable year by year. California is particularly vulnerable to frequent and prolonged droughts which limits access to fresh, clean water. Current reliance on groundwater extraction for agricultural and domestic needs has been shown to be highly unsustainable. Additionally, as temperatures continue to rise, evaporation rates are increasing, depleting reservoirs and increasing agricultural and landscaping irrigation demands. Warmer winters also means less snowpack, which means less availability of mountain runoff water in the spring. Overall, as our climate continues to change, we must all do our part to reduce water consumption.
Conserving water might mean redesigning landscapes or installing new technology, such as sprinkler systems or washing machines. Conserving water does not have to mean drastic change. Start with small, simple actions, like installing faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads or checking for leaks in homes and businesses. These efforts can save water and money on utility bills. The San Diego region has a lot of free resources, rebate incentives, and services available to help with this transition - take a look and start saving today.
Outdoor Water Conservation
Take a look at the City of La Mesa's Water Conservation Fact Sheet for Outdoor Water Usage.
Change Landscapes - Xeriscaping
What is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is derived from the Greek word "xeros" for dry, so xeriscaping can be defined as dry landscaping. It refers to redesigning outdoor spaces to need little to no water.
What are the 7 principles of Xeriscaping?
1. Water Conservation: Before planting anything, design the landscape, taking into account budget, function, aesthetics, and overall maintenance. Take into account shady and sunny areas and sloped and flat areas.
2. Soil Quality: Incorporating organic matter that is well aerated into the soil can improve the soil's ability to store and drain water. The main organic additive is usually compost, which is good for most xeriscape plants.
3. Limited Turf: Grass lawns require a lot of water for upkeep. Consider replacing lawns with native plants, succulents, gravel, mulch, and permeable pathways. Also, consider using a less water-intensive type of turf.
4. Native, Drought-Resistant Plants: For hot, dry areas, prioritize plants that need very little water. Plants that are native to the region should thrive in this climate. Group plants with similar water needs together, so they are on the same watering schedule.
5. Mulch: Place a 3-inch layer of mulch around plants to prevent weed growth, buffer soil temperature, and slow evaporation, reducing the need for watering. Mulch can include woodchips, straw, compost, etc... Replenish every 1 to 2 years.
6. Water Efficiently: Conserve water by collecting rainwater, using drip irrigation systems, installing smart irrigation controllers, using graywater, and watering early in the morning.
7. Maintenance: Xeriscape landscapes do not require a lot of maintenance. For best practices, establish a schedule to keep up with pruning, weeding, and mulching. Do not over fertilize.
Plants native to the San Diego area that are great for xeriscaping include:
- Aloe Vera
- Barrel Cactus
- Blue Agave
- California Fuchsia
- Coastal Sagebrush
- Crape Myrtle Trees
- Desert Willow
- Fairy Duster
- Feather Reed Grass
- Mondo Grass
- Purple Three Awn
- Silver Leaf
Be Water Wise: California Native Plant Guides
Better Homes and Gardens: Drought-Tolerant Landscape
Cal Water: Low-Water & Drought-Resistant Plants
California Native Plant Society Planting Guides
Master Gardeners of San Joaquin: Gardening with CA Natives
San Diego Water Authority: Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes
San Diego Water Authority: WaterSmart Landscaping
Hydrozoning refers to placing plants with similar sun and water needs in the same zone. Hydrozoning prevents overwatering and underwatering certain plants and can decrease outdoor water use by 20% to 50%. Consider dividing outdoor space into 4 zones:
1. Tree zone
2. Grass zone
3. Low water use plant zone
4. Moderate water use plant zone
Consider changing your current irrigation systems for maximum water conservation.
Drip Irrigation: Drip emitters apply water directly into the root zone of plants, minimizing water evaporation from the soil surface. Drip irrigation is 90% efficient unlike other forms of irrigation, such as sprinklers, which are only 65 to 70% efficient. Some drip methods include soaker hoses, drip tape, porous pipe, and micro-sprinklers.
Smart Irrigation Controller: Smart irrigation controllers automatically adjust your watering schedule by monitoring weather, soil conditions, and evaporation. Upgrade to these controllers, and you can reduce your outdoor water use by as much as 15%.
Water in Early Morning: Water before sunrise or after sunset to prevent rapid evaporation from soil during the heat of the day.
Using graywater is a great way to reduce overall water usage and utility bill expenditure because it relies on using recycled water. Water bills are often a lot higher in the warmer season as this is when most outdoor watering takes place, so employing graywater systems has the potential to decrease water bills by a significant amount.
What is Graywater? Graywater is used water that comes from washing machines, showers, and bathroom sinks. This water can be reused to feed the landscape.
How to use Graywater: Only apply diverted graywater using subsurface irrigation. Irrigation lines must be covered by at least 2 inches of mulch/soil. Keep graywater below the ground so that it never comes in contact with the edible parts of the plant. Be mindful of soaps and detergents and whether they may be harmful to plants.
Timing: Unlike rain cisterns, you can't store graywater. Be ready to use graywater as it is produced.
Different states have different graywater laws. In California, graywater does not include water from kitchen sinks or dishwashers. Additionally, California Plumbing Code requires a construction permit for any graywater system that makes changes to a home's drain/waste plumbing. Graywater irrigation from washing machines is often allowed without a permit, assuming the system meets all guidelines.
Rainwater collection, also known as rainwater harvesting, is another way to save water and potentially lower utility bills. As the name suggests, this refers to capturing rainwater as it is falls, rather than wasting it as stormwater runoff. Most cities (and other areas) have a high percentage of impervious surfaces, meaning that water cannot penetrate through them. These surfaces include asphalt, concrete, stone, and brick, which are all common in urban areas. When rain falls, instead of percolating through the ground/grass into the soil to refill the water table, the water ends up running off of roofs and streets into storm drains. This runoff picks up pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, oil, and bacteria, and carries it all the way to streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.
Rainwater collection is a way to counteract some of these effects. There are a couple of different types of collection: active and passive. Passive can be as simple as using permeable surfaces to catch water directly into the ground around plants, and active collection can be as simple as installing a barrel or cistern to hold and store water for landscaping needs.
Active Collection: Collecting rain in cisterns or barrels to use for landscaping irrigation. Cisterns often hold 200+ gallons of water. They are more likely than barrels to be UV rated, preventing algae growth. Many cisterns have filters, extending the time period water can be stored - up to a year.
Passive Collection: Directing rain into the landscape as opposed to storm drains. When designing landscapes, use permeable surfaces, build water catchment areas with berms and swales (mounds and dips), and make infiltration basins.
Indoor Water Conservation
Take a look at the City of La Mesa's Water Conservation Fact Sheet for Indoor Water Usage.
Premium High-Efficiency Toilets (PHET)
Consider upgrading your toilet!
PHETs use 1.1 gallons of water per flush compared to the 1.6 gallons per flush of standard toilets, which is 30% less water. Look for EPA-certified WaterSense toilets. These models can save the average family 13,000 gallons of water per year. It also saves money - around $95 per year and $1,900 over its lifetime.
High Efficiency Washing Machines
Consider upgrading your washing machine.
Standard washing machines use at least 20 gallons of water per load, often much more, compared to 14 gallons per load with a high efficiency washing machine. You could save more than 150,000 gallons of water over the washer's lifetime!
High-efficiency washing machines use at least 30% less water than standard clothes washers. They also use less energy, reducing both water and energy costs.
High-efficiency washers wash clothing in a shallow pool of water, using high pressure sprays to rinse. Due to the lower water level, be sure to use "HE" labelled detergents only.
In addition to saving water, high-efficiency washers get clothes dryer during the spin cycle, saving overall dryer time, and they are gentler on clothing, leading to less wear.
Faucets and Showerheads
Standard faucets and showerheads typically have much higher flow rates than is needed, leading to wasted water.
Faucet aerators help to reduce water flow and control the stream. Installing them can save on average 1.2 gallons per person per day. Low-flow showerheads have water flow rates of 2 gallons per minute (gpm) or less compared to standard showerheads with a 2.5 gpm flow rate. The average family could save 2,700 gallons per year.
Look at the rebates below for more information on how to get FREE faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads for your home.
To save water, use the following flow rates:
Check for Leaks
The average household's leaks can account for close to 10,000 gallons of wasted water annually. Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more of water each day. Common household leaks are toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves.
To check if a toilet is leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the color can be seen in the bowl without flushing, there is a leak.
Be proactive about fixing leaks as soon as possible to save water!
Best Practices for Water Conservation
- Prioritize using drought-tolerant plants and landscaping techniques.
- Water before sunrise or after sunset to prevent rapid evaporation during heat of the day.
- Use graywater or capture rainwater to water your landscape.
- Set lawn mower blades one notch higher as longer grass reduces evaporation.
- Leave grass clippings on top of the grass to cool the ground and hold in the moisture.
- Use mulch, compost, and woodchips to retain water, control erosion, and suppress weeds.
- If you have a pool, use a cover to reduce evaporation. This also keeps the pool cleaner and reduces the need to add chemicals.
- Scrape food instead of pre-rinsing.
- Only run the dishwasher when it is 100% full.
- When handwashing, fill the sink with soapy water instead of continually running the faucet.
- Wait for a full load before doing laundry.
- Use the shortest wash cycle for lightly soiled loads.
- Use low flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth.
- Keep a jug of water in the fridge rather than running the water until it is cold enough.
Rebates & Giveaways
Receive money for upgrading your home with water efficient devices! Please see rebate requirements before starting your project.
- Turf Replacement: The Metropolitan Water District offers $2.00 per sq. ft. (up to 5,000 sq. ft.) of turf converted to drought-tolerant landscaping.
- Rain Barrels and Cisterns: Receive $35 per Barrel or $250 per Cistern (200-500 gallons), $300 (501-999 gallons), $350 (1000+ gallons).
- Mulch: Helix Water District offers customers $25 per cubic yard, up to $100, for the purchase and installation of plant-based mulch.
- Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles: Rebates start at $2/nozzle with a minimum quantity of 15 nozzles.
- Weather-Based Irrigation Controller (WBIC) or Soil Moisture Sensor System (SMSS): Rebates start at $80/controller (less than 1 acre) & $35/station (more than 1 acre) for WBICs and SMSSs. Rebates are not available for both.
- High Efficiency Clothes Washers: Rebates start at $85. In order to receive the rebate, clothes washers must meet or exceed the CEE Tier 1 standard.
- Premium High-Efficiency Toilets (PHETs): Rebates of $40 per toilet are available for PHETs using 1.1 gallons per flush or less.
- Flow Monitor Leak Detection Devices: A base incentive of $150 is offered for qualifying flow monitor devices. There are devices to fit different needs and budgets.
- Low-Flow Showerheads: Residents and commercial customers can pick up FREE showerheads at Helix Water District.
- Free Faucet Aerators: Helix Water District provides free WaterSense approved faucet aerators to residents.
- DIY Water & Energy Saving Toolkit: The City of La Mesa offers free rentals of DIY Toolkits to residents, which include water saving tools and free giveaways.
Visit Helix Water District & SoCal Water Smart for the most up-to-date information on rebates.