Sustainable home landscape design is more than just saving water by using drought tolerant plantings and employing water efficient irrigation systems. Sustainability goes beyond the limits of your own property.

For example, water that is not otherwise used to irrigate your landscape runs off the property into drainage swales and storm drains and finds its way into streams or groundwater aquifers. Sustainability involves ecological, economical and social issues. But primarily homeowners will receive the most tangible benefits of sustainability by focusing on water conservation techniques they can apply to their  home landscape as they are the easiest to put into place.

1) Drip Irrigation – A drip system delivers water at a rate based on gallons per hour compared to gallons per minute as does a conventional spray head system. Both use the same kind of valves, but a drip system’s valves need to have a pressure reducer to bring the pressure after the valve to around 25-30 psi. Drip emitters then deliver water right to the root zone and so are therefore much more efficient than overhead spray heads.

2) Smart Controllers – A “smart” controller is a conventional automatic irrigation controller that is equipped with a computer that you can program that makes use of rainfall data in your region thus helping to improve the efficiency in delivery and conserve water by changing the settings as the level of soil moisture changes.

3) Rain Sensors – when used with a Smart Controller they can overide the default settings in order to save water based on rainfall. A rain sensor can also be used in conjunction with a conventional irrigation controller and will override the controller’s settings when it senses sufficient amount of rainfall.

4) Soil Moisture Sensors – Probing the soil with either a manual rain sensor or one connected to a controller will allow you to adjust your irrigation settings for each zone you are testing. Zones are important in irrigation and planting design to provide adequate water for the plant’s requirements.

5) High Efficiency Nozzles – Spray heads that can be efficient for shrubs and lawn areas by using low precipitation rate nozzles. Make sure they are labeled as such.

6) Rainwater Harvesting – Use rain barrels or larger storage tanks so you can utilize the captured water during periods between rains. Raingardens and Bioswales use the natural runoff from a site to irrigate the plants.

7) Permeable Pavers – Capture rainwater so you can either direct it back into the soil or into a RainXchange underground storage system where the water can then be pumped to use as you wish.

8) Graywater – Water diverted from your washing machine, sinks and showers can be used for irrigation in the landscape. Local building codes vary by state. Not all states allow graywater use, but it is allowed in Arizona.

9) Food Gardens – Providing for at least some of your own food is not only healthy because of its freshness and hopefully grown organically, but is in the spirit of buy local. Not everyone can grow a majority of their own food since most of us live in urban areas, but each of us can do own part regardless how small a contribution.

10) Organic Non-Toxic Methods – Growing organically and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides or inorganic fertilizers helps our water resources to remain unpolluted.

11) Recycle, Reuse, Reduce — Composting is an essential feature for any sustainable landscape that will not only reduce burdens on landfills, but improves the soil in your food garden and other planting areas.

On the big picture level, sustainability is a global concern for the continuation of the earth’s resources to provide for the needs of our planet, both human and environmental needs. Sustainability is also a lifestyle choice that affects how we behave and our attitudes. By focusing on a sustainable home landscape, you can help the sustainability of your local region.