Water-Wise Resources


by Renee Roth, Rainscape Designs

Over one-half of all residential customer’s water use is for outdoor landscaping. With drought restrictions and allocations imposed by water agencies, is it time to RETHINK the Landscape – what is the highest and best use of your landscape water?

Water Wise Landscaping Tips
First, call your water company (in the City of Ojai  it is Casitas Water or Meiners Oaks Water, Ventura River Water District) and ask for a Water Survey, where a water surveyor will go over your water bill, help you determine the amount of water used inside vs outside, read your water meter and check for leaks, and identify ways to save water with your irrigation/landscape.  Some agencies also have water wise site assessments that can help you come up with ideas to use water more efficiently, including what to plant, how to remove turf, what trees to plant etc.

Trees & shrubs take longer to establish—take care of them!

Managing grass is tricky in the Ojai Valley, as a traditional lawn requires about 54” of water/sf/year. Our average rainfall is only 21 inches/year, with recent rainfall only 10.5 inches per year for past 6 years.  It is hard to justify keeping your grass green with drought restrictions, allocations and penalties being imposed to reduce our water consumption to help make supplies last longer.

Reduce/Remove Your Turf

  • Rethink the lawn, do you use it? Info on Lawn Care from UC Ag & Natural Resources
  • Maybe consider a smaller turf area by gradually reducing size or maybe switch to a low water grass that takes less water and maintenance. Choose and identify your turf species here Consider warm season turf (~ 20-30% less H2O).
  • Gradually reduce water (harden off over time) and let it spring back to life if/when we get rain.
  • Let it go brown, and re-seed with compost during rainy season (and hope for rain).
  • Replace with native turf (~ 50% less H2O) more info at S&S Seeds
  • Mow lawns higher during summer- reduces growth rate, protects from sunburn, promotes deeper root growth, shades soil, reduces weeds, and grass cycle your cuttings back into lawn.
  • LONG TERM SOLUTION: Get rid of turf and plant “climate appropriate plants”, which require one-fifth the water and one-quarter the maintenance of lawn (not just succulents save H2O).
  • Replace nonessential turf with ground covers, mulches, permeable walkways, mulched basins, or rain gardens (~600 gallons H20 captured from 1,000 sq feet roof in 1” rain) to keep rain water on site. More info on rain gardens here.
  • Install a greywater system that recycles laundry water back into your landscape. More info on how to do it here with Ventura County regulations and permit information here
  • Low water using plants i.e. California native plants need time to establish (1-2 years) so introduce new plants into your landscape in December or January, when weather is cooler and chance of rain likely.
  • Plant in the fall when rain is expected and temps are cooler.
  • How much water is needed? Based on size and age of plant and climate, we may still need to water in the summer if little rain and really hot. See WUCOLS rating of plants water requirements at http://waterwonk.us (select only plants with low or very low water demands).
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Cools soil, reduces weeds, feeds SOIL, retains water. Info about mulch and sustainable landscaping found here
  • Create Healthy SOIL – OWL – Oxygen Water & Life, add Compost Tea
  • Avoid heavy pruning – adds stress.
  • Don’t use fertilizers, which increase growth rate and water demands.
  • Convert pop-ups to mini rotors or cap off and change-out to drip.
  • Install a rain garden – more information from UC Extension is here

Edible Gardens – Plant enough for your household, drought resistant varieties with short growing season, critical watering periods are when transplanting and fruit development. Add compost which provides nutrients to soil, improves water holding capacity and yields.

CA Rare Fruit Growers-SB & Ventura Chapter
Water Conservation Tips – Vegetable Gardens

Water for wildlife – Use shallow dish, put stick in it so critters can climb in, add rocks and put in shade, refill often. For birds container should be above ~ 3′ above ground.


Meiners Oaks Elementary School -Watershed Friendly Garden

Cluff Vista Park in Ojai- Native Garden designed by Tom Bostrom

Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens in Santa Barbara

Firescape Gardens at Stanwood Dr. and Mission Ridge Rd. in Santa Barbara

Ventura Botanical Gardens in Ventura

Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria

Lotus Land http://www.lotusland.org/ in Montecito

Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont

Grow Natives Nursery near UCLA in Veterans Garden

Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge

South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Peninsula

San Luis Obispo Botanic Gardens in San Luis Obispo

The LA Arboretum in Arcadia

The Huntington Gardens in San Marino

Arlington Garden in South Pasadena

U.C. AG & Natural Resources-Master Gardeners
Capture the Rain and Let it Flow
Plant list for Rain Gardens
Water Conservations Tips for the Home Lawn & Garden
Sustainable Landscaping In California
33 Ways to Save Water in Your Home Garden
California Institute for Water Resources
California Water Districts & Associations
NEW! Coastal California Rain Gardens
NEW! Keeping Landscape Plantings Alive under Drought or Water Restrictions
Gardening Basics: How do I practice sustainable gardening?
Lawn Watering Guide for California
Managing Turfgrass During Drought
Managing Water, Sustainably
Questions & Answers About Water Conservation and Drought in the Landscape
Water Conservation Tips for Home Lawn and Garden

Fire Safety

California Native Plant Society Native Plant Landscaping Reduce Fire Risk

Ojai Fire Safe Council

HFH Plant List, Santa Barbara Fire Resistant Plant List

Landscape Professionals

California Landscape Contractors Association

SO CAL American Society of Landscape Architects

Association of Professional Landscape Designers

Water Managers Certified by the California Landscape Contractors Association

Water Management Study Guide of CA Landscape Contractors Association 

State and Local Resources

Casitas Water Drought Declaration and Water Waste Prohibitions
City of Ojai Drought Information and Resources
Ventura County Seasonal Rainfall Map
County of Santa Barbara WaterWise Landscaping
City of Santa Barbara Drought and Water Conservation Information

State of California – Water Use Efficiency 

California Model Water Use Efficiency Ordinance (MWELO)
WUCOLS plant database of water requirements by region in CA Save Our Water Program

Capturing Rainwater

Rain gardens offer an an attractive and practical way to conserve water in your landscape. Rain garden design and placement require planning (not too close to the foundation of buildings) and sizing (big enough to capture one inch of rain off of a nearby roof), along with the ability to drain and percolate water into soil (based on soil texture and structure i.e. percentage of sand, silt and clay ). Rain gardens also need to be designed with spillways for very large rain event, so extreme amounts of rainwater can “spill out” and into the storm drains. And don’t forget the plants, which have to like being wet in the rainy season and dry in the summer. More info below:

San Luis Obispo Guide to LID

Iowa Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual

Youtube Videos Calculating Runoff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMmNY7SimV8

Plants for Rain Gardens

LID Plant Guidance for Bio Retention

UC CAL Extension SEA GRANT – Rain Gardens

Favorite Websites on WaterWise Plants

WUCOLS WUCOLS plant database water requirements by region in CA


Gardening Success with Ca Native Plants from Master Gardeners of Sonoma County

LA County Green Building Program | DRP

CA Native Plant Society of LA and Santa Monica Mountains- List of Resources

Search by zip code http://www.mynativeplants.com/site

Nifty Fifty list of plants and other info from San Diego County Water Authority

Landscape Plants for California Gardens by Bob Perry download Ch 1-3

UC DAvis Arboretum All Stars

Sunset Waterwise Gardening

Eguide to a Watersmart Lifestyle (San Diego County Water Authority)


Parkway Guidelines/Plant Lists
City of LA Parkway Guidelines/Plants
City of West Hollywood Parkway Guidelines/Plants
City of Corona Parkway Design
City of Santa Barbara HW1 Coastal Corridor Parkway Guidelines
Water Wise Lawn Alternatives, City of Santa Barbara
Parkway Plant list from Weeding Wild Suburbia

Landscape Designs Ideas
City of San Jose
Goleta Water Edible Garden
Native Plant Planting Instructions from Irvine Water District

Tree People Resources Page
Ojai Trees

CA NATIVE plants Lists
Turf Alternatives http://waterwisesb.org/asset.c/259

California Natives – Easy Medium Difficult to Grow
TreePeople Native Plant List

Water-Wise Gardening in Ventura County
California Native Plant Society Calscape Native Plant Database
PDF City of Santa Barbara Desireable FIRE HAZARD Plant List
Links to CNPS School Gardens Info
CA Native Plants- A Starter List from Tree People

PDF Southern California Native Plants for School and Urban Gardens
PDF Native Plant Gardens for Schools and Urban Areas: A Survival Guide, Betsey Landis

Waterwise Landscaping Books

Beverly Hill Garden Handbook
San Diego Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines
LA County Drought Tolerant Handbook
Inland Empire Landscaping Guidebook

G3 – WaterWise Landscaping Materials

Simple Rain Garden Recipe
Plan Your Project Prepare a Site Plan
Six Elements of the California Friendly Landscape
Sprinkler to Drip Retrofit

Open Space and Conservation

Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
Ventura Land Trust

Ventura River Watershed

Friends of the Ventura River
Ventura River Watershed Council
Santa Barbara Channel Keeper
Ventura County Ocean Friendly Gardens
Surfrider Foundation

Your Lawn During Drought, UC AG & Natural Resources, Master Gardener Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/files/186273.pdf

Contra Costa County Drought Survival Guide for Lawns

Educational Resources for Watershed Education-Region 8 of CREEC

Climate Change
Heat Island Effect explained

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