Saving Water Outdoors

Water Conservation

According to CalWater, in the Los Altos district the average residential single family household used 170,755 gallons in 2010. About 50% of that was for irrigation. If households used 10% less irrigation water per year, that would be a savings of 85.4 million gallons per year.

Benefits of Landscape Water Conservation

There are many benefits to landscape water conservation and the use of native plants, including:

  • Reduced water demand, resulting in lower water bills, less water pulled from the California Delta and other sources, less energy used for pumping and purification, and less needed to fund future water supply and purification infrastructure projects
  • Reduced runoff, soil erosion, and costs for storm water management
  • Reduced service and energy costs for maintenance (electric and gas mowers, etc.)
  • Reduced air and noise pollution. Cal Air Resources Board claims that a 3.5 hp lawn mower running for 30 minutes emits the same amount of hydrocarbon pollution by products as a 1997 car going 85 miles.
  • Longer life for lawn maintenance equipment
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Increased native plant, insect, bird, and animal diversity on land and in the streams
  • Reduced plant disease, rot, and mortality caused by over-watering

Top 10 Ways to Save Waters Outdoors

  1. Get a "Water Wise House Call" from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. A trained specialist will come to your house and identify ways of conserving water, both indoor and outdoor. The specialist will also identify if you have any leaks in your residential water system.
  2. Remove some turf and use native plants: Remove turf areas that your family does not use and potentially realize 15-50% outdoor water savings. Frank Niccoli, a local landscape expert estimates that each 600 sq ft. costs at least $1,000 per year in water, maintenance, fertilizers, etc. Replace turf and other landscape areas with drought-tolerant plants (ideally California natives as they support the local ecology). Take advantage of the Santa Clara Valley Water District's rebate for turf removal.
  3. Spread a layer of organic mulch around trees and plants. This can save hundreds of gallons of water by retaining moisture while rejuvenating the soil.
  4. Irrigation equipment: Check your system, repair leaks, and replace damaged sprinkler heads. Convert some or all zones to drip. Install a "Smart" weather-based controller or rain sensor, utilizing the generous rebate from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
  5. Irrigation schedule: Try to reduce each watering time by one minute. Water your yard only before 8:00 a.m. to reduce evaporation and interference from wind. Water without waste, shortening zone times if puddles or runoff occur. If you do not have a weather-based irrigation controller, adjust the watering amount monthly by the following factors, using July as the base month when the most water is needed. (from Cal Dept of Water Resources):


    Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
    0% 0% 5% 30% 60% 90% 100% 90% 60% 30% 5% 0%




  1. Keep swimming pools covered when not in use to eliminate evaporation
  2. Wash your car at the carwash instead of at home (this saves water and prevents polluting runoff from flowing into the streams)
  3. Use shut-off nozzles on hoses. A half-inch garden hose shoots 75 gallons of water in 15 minutes. A 5/8" hose uses 96 gallons in 15 minutes and one that is 3/4" loses 132 gallons in 15 minutes. Use a broom instead of water to clean the drive.
  4. Gray Water (from the clothes washer or bathroom sinks) can be used for irrigation.
  5. Rainwater harvesting — capturing water from your roof — can save water. A 3,000 square foot roof could produce about 28,000 gallons of rainfall per year and prevent all that water from running into the storm drains and into the creeks.