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All dried up: be water-wise with drought-tolerant landscaping. (Ductape).

With water resources at a premium, it has become increasingly important for property managers to implement drought-tolerant or resource-efficient landscaping methods. By designing a landscape in an appropriate manner to the climate and region--selecting compatible plants, installing efficient irrigation systems-a balance can be achieved that fits both the aesthetic needs of the property and the resource availability of the region.

In 1981, the Denver Water Department coined the word Xeriscape[R]--a combination of the word "landscape" and the Greek word "xeros" meaning dry--to help make water-conserving landscaping an easily recognized concept. The concept of Xeriscape is based on seven primary principles: planning and design; limiting turf areas; selecting and zoning plants appropriately; improving the soil; using mulches; irrigating efficiently and performing appropriate maintenance.

Water-wise landscaping offers a number of benefits. First and foremost, it saves precious water resources. Secondly, it typically costs far less both to build and maintain than traditional landscapes. Third, it offers new ways to provide year-round beauty.

Perhaps most significantly for the property owner and manager, drought-tolerant landscapes can increase property values by as much as 15 percent, reduce water and maintenance costs by up to 60 percent, and reduce landscape water use by 70 percent or more.

When it's important to save water in landscaping, it's important to place plants of similar water needs together to avoid excessive irrigation. The chart below is an example of how plants can be grouped in Denver or Salt Lake City. This can be accomplished in any climate by adjusting the number of zones and the actual amounts of water needed, based on local experience.

Liquid Assets

When you consider 50 percent (or more) of the drinking water supplied across most of the United States and in Australia is used for landscaping, implementing resource-efficient landscaping becomes significant. What's more, water-efficient landscaping typically uses half as much water as standard Kentucky Bluegrass-dominated landscaping.

Now consider the cost of the residential drinking water used for local landscape irrigation. For example, the hourly cost of using local drinking water, based on two 5/ 8-inch hoses at 60 psi, is (1990s rates):
Denver $1.55/hour
Boulder $3.57/hour
Lafayette,CO $8.57/hour (in city),
 $17.14/hour
 (outside city)
Pine Brook
Hills,CO $18.50/hour
Santa Fe $42/hour (highest
 1996 emergency rate)
 $3,310/hour
 (2002 emergency)
Los Angeles $3.34/hour


Monthly bills of $1,000 in Lafayette, CO and $3,000 in Pine Brook Hills, CO have been reported.

Your landscape is an investment in the value of your property and an important element of your building's curb appeal. Drought-proofing your landscape can protect your investment and help conserve valuable water resources at the same time.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Water Does Landscaping Really Need?

The chart below illustrates how to divide landscaping into different zones, based on the water needs of plants.

High Water Zones Bluegrass turf always wet at surface

18-20 gals./S.F./season .5"--3 times per week

Typical plants: Kentucky Bluegrass Redtwig Dogwood, Pansies

Moderate Water Zones Half of Bluegrass turf (drier than Denver/SLC)

10+gals./S.F./season.75"--once per week

Typical plants: Turf-type Tall Fescue, Potentilla, Purple Coneflower, many shade trees

Low Water Zones Buffalograss turf

0-3 gals./S.F./season 5" per 2 weeks, optional

Typical plants: Buffalograss lawns, Rabbitbrush, Mexican Hat Coneflower

Very Low Too dry for any turf

No irrigation No irrigation

Typical plants: Pinon Pine, Yuccas, Apache Plume, Agaves, Penstemons

Jim Knopf (KnopfJ@aol.com), ASIA (American Society of Landscape Architects) is a Boulder, CO-based landscape architect. He is also author of WaterWise Landscaping with Trees, Shrubs and Vines.
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Title Annotation:Xeriscape
Author:Knopf, Jim
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:607
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