Water Authority’s New Demonstration Garden Puts Sustainable Landscape Practices on Display

Short Title
Water Authority’s New Demonstration Garden Puts Sustainable Landscape Practices on Display
Renovation designed to inspire more residents to create outdoor spaces that achieve multiple environmental benefits
September 28, 2017

The San Diego County Water Authority today unveiled a new demonstration garden at its Kearny Mesa headquarters designed to show visitors how they can increase water efficiency and boost the environmental benefits of outdoor spaces through sustainable landscaping practices.

In addition to employing well-known water-efficient practices such as using climate-appropriate plants and high-efficiency irrigation, the new Sustainable Landscaping Demonstration Garden has features designed to further enhance water efficiency and achieve additional environmental benefits such as reduced stormwater runoff. These features include the application of organic soil amendments and the use of rainwater capture elements.

The approximately 3,000-square-foot garden provides a tangible example of the recommendations of the San Diego Sustainable Landscapes Program, or SLP. The SLP is a public-private partnership among the Water Authority and the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Association of Compost Producers, Surfrider Foundation, and California American Water. Funded by a state Department of Water Resources grant, the program partners collaborated to produce the “San Diego Sustainable Landscape Guidelines,” a comprehensive, 71-page color guidebook with photos, diagrams and checklists to help homeowners understand how to implement a landscape transformation that follows SLP recommendations. An online version of the guidebook is available at sustainablelandscapessd.org/guidelines.

“This demonstration garden adds a new dimension to the Water Authority’s efforts to promote sustainable landscaping, which is about more than just water-efficient plants,” said Mark Muir, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Our thanks go to the SLP partners, the Department of Water Resources, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program for helping us demonstrate the latest landscape practices that support a WaterSmart lifestyle.”

The garden was funded through a California Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management Program grant and additional donations from San Diego Gas & Electric.

“We are proud to support the demonstration garden, and of our long-standing partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority to promote water and energy conservation,” Caroline Winn, San Diego Gas & Electric’s chief operating officer, said. “Water and energy efficiency efforts overlap because transporting water is energy-intensive. When you save water, whether it’s through drought-tolerant landscaping or shorter showers, you save energy.”

The project renovated a highly visible area along the walkway between the main gate to the Water Authority’s employee parking lot and the south end of the covered entrance to the lobby. The garden features more than 20 varieties of very low to moderate water-use plants, uses inline drip and high-efficiency rotating nozzles to enhance irrigation efficiency, and demonstrates rainwater harvesting through a bioswale and water detention basin near the southwest corner of the building. It also includes compost in the soil mix and a 3-inch top layer of mulch to suppress weeds and reduce evaporation.

The Water Authority added a new, exhibit-quality sign at the demonstration garden this week to introduce visitors to key sustainable landscaping principles. The sign includes a Quick Response Code (QR Code) that enables visitors to use their smartphones to quickly locate related SLP resources at sustainablelandscapessd.org. Smaller signs throughout the landscape identify specific plant types. Free brochures on sustainable landscaping featuring the landscape’s design plan and plant palette are also available for visitors to take home.

“For sustainable landscaping practices to become more widely accepted, it’s important for the public to experience them and understand that sustainable landscapes are both beautiful and environmentally beneficial,” said Principal Water Resources Specialist Carlos Michelon. “We invite the public to view our demonstration garden as it continues to mature, and to take advantage of our water-use efficiency resources to help residents complete similar projects at home.”

For more information about SLP resources, including education and training opportunities, how to receive technical assistance, and how to get an SLP-guided project started go to sustainablelandscapessd.org. To learn about the Water Authority’s entire suite of water-use efficiency resources, go to watersmartsd.org.