Conserve Water in Your Yard Despite Wet Winter

Cloverdale home with drought tolerant landscaping

By Joe Schriner

Sonoma County residents can rest a little easier knowing that we have received a good amount of rain this winter, but did we really receive enough water to justify keeping a large lawn? No. Sure El Nino came through in the nick of time for us this year, but how much rain will we get next year? Since we can’t predict future rainfall, we must stay in the habit of conserving water and get better at it wherever we can–especially in our gardens. For some homeowners that means taking out all or most of the lawn because irrigated turf grass can account for 25% to 50% of your water bill in the summer months.

Some homeowners want to maintain a small patch of lawn for pets or to keep their patio area cool so they can find other ways to conserve in order to balance their effort. To help anyone reduce or eliminate lawn, almost every city in our area has a rebate program for removing grass. In Santa Rosa it’s called “The Green Exchange Rebate Program”. In Windsor they call it “Water Efficient Landscape Rebate Program”. Visit your city’s webpage for details.

A better use for your garden water this summer would be establishing some beautiful drought tolerant or native plantings that survive on a small amount of drip irrigation. Anyone who has planted a five gallon plant knows that it’s hard work so do your homework to save time and money by purchasing the right plants the first time. If you can be patient, start with smaller plants to save money. Should selecting the proper plant material still qwel-logo which stands for Qualified Water Efficient Landscaperseem too daunting, hire a professional garden designer. If you feel comfortable choosing your plants, but aren’t up to the task of planting them, hire a landscaper to install them. You can find a “Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper” by checking out for a list of local professionals knowledgeable about selecting, planting, and irrigating drought tolerant plants.

How we use our water in Sonoma county should remain a concern for all of us in the years ahead. Our population is expected to grow from 471,000 to 600,000 residents in the next twenty years. Demands on residential and commercial water use will increase accordingly. With the threat of the next drought always lurking around the corner, let’s be ready by designing our landscapes to use as little water as possible.

TIPS (sidebar)

  • You don’t have to re-landscape your entire yard at With planning, you can correct the most thirsty parts of you yard first and then move forward as time and money allow.
  • If you still crave some thirsty flowers for color, one way is to place a few small containers of them strategically to show them to their best potential. They can be on drip irrigation and you can give them water saved from you shower or rinse water so as not to increase your overall water usage.
  • Growing fresh vegetables? Research water-saving planting methods, ways to slow down evaporation, and containers to attractively incorporate home-grown veggie color into your landscape.

Joe Schriner
is the owner of Earth Works Landscaping based in Cloverdale. Reach him at

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