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West Basin Water Treatment Facility, El Segundo, CA
Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility (West Basin), photo by Vince Streano

The water supply for Southern California is all imported. In January 2014, Governor Brown announced that California is experiencing a drought which surpasses any weather events during the last 500 years. In order to continue living in Los Angeles County, the single most important activity is conserving water.

Did you know that 70% of our water is used on outdoor irrigation? By changing our gardening practices, we can increase our chances of surviving this drought.

Efficient Irrigation

Water Controllers

  • Set irrigation controllers to operate between 12 midnight and 6 AM. Check for runoff and reduce watering schedule if needed.
  • Reduce or eliminate irrigation during winter.
  • Make sure irrigation systems are off when rain is forecast – and when it is actually raining.

Sidewalk Setbacks

  • Design irrigation systems so that they are set away from hard surfaces where water would reach sidewalks or streets.
  • Leave buffers and design parkway landscaping that does not need irrigating.
  • Create native plant perimeters or ornamental setbacks to eliminate runoff.
  • Maintain a perimeter of 12 – 36 inches around the garden.
  • Native plants in your landscaping perimeter will help stop water run-off to the street.
  • Plant low-to-the-ground grasses and flowers to maintain a view; plant sages and bushes such as ceanothus if you want a hedge.
  • Plants such as cattail, sedges, wild rose or blackberry will help restore riparian habitat.

When possible, install drip, micro sprays, or other water-efficient irrigation. You can save an average of 50% of the water used with traditional sprinklers. Think about cutting your water bill in half!

Remove Irrigation Pipes
Be a Water Hero. Design a low-water use garden that does not use potable water. Remove irrigation pipes and let nature do the work.

Lawn Removal

photo courtesy of WBMWD
Photo courtesy of West Basin Municipal Water District

Local water districts provide rebates for removing turf. Check SoCalWaterSmart for rebate information.

Need help with the process? Bring in the Resource Conservation District Keep Your Green team to find out how to do it and make it pretty. Want landscape architects and designers who know how to do it right? The Green Gardens Group can show you plenty of alternatives to turf. Learn about landscaping with native plants that grow in the Southern California region.


Artificial Turf
Not recommended: plastic lawns degrade and bits of plastic can get in the water; for detailed information, read this report prepared by Stanford University. In addition, there can be other health and environmental impacts, such as destroying the living soil. Our advice is to skip the fake stuff and go with a natural drought-resistant ground cover. The California Native Plant Society offers alternatives.

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