For years, California has battled prolonged water shortages and droughts. Based on its tradition of riparian rights, water in California that crosses riparian land has historically been fair game for all. But a new watering law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, is designed to restrict usage of the state’s scarce water resources. While water was largely unrestricted before, residents will now be allowed a maximum of 55 gallons of water to use each day for residential purposes. California residents will undoubtedly have to make some modifications to their daily water usage, which includes using water-wise techniques to sustain a beautiful lawn and garden.

Understanding California’s Water Rights

Water rights essentially give people legal permission to use a reasonable amount of water for activities like farming, fishing, swimming, and industrial purposes. California and most Eastern states distribute water based on a riparian system, which means that anyone can use water crossing riparian lands. In California, an individual could previously use up to 4,500 gallons of water each day. Until now, anyone who has used more water than the allocated amount has had to apply (and receive) a permit through the state’s Division of Water Rights before continuing to use any more water.

What Has Changed With The New Law?

Under the new law, the amount of water that each person can use is far more restrictive than it was in the past. And instead of simply applying for a permit to use more water, the new law imposes a penalty if the maximum allocated amount of water is exceeded. Across the state, water companies are in charge of encouraging customers to reduce their water usage to 55 gallons daily. If citizens within a company’s jurisdiction exceed that amount, the company can face tremendous fines – up to $1,000 per person, every day! Customers also have to pay fines for exceeding their water use.

How Will You Be Affected?

The average American citizen uses just over 17 gallons for an eight-minute shower. Cutting down a shower to five minutes can save about six gallons of water. Toilets and washing machines are the biggest sources of water usage. Toilets account for about 31% of water usage, and washing machines use anywhere from 15% – 40% of a home’s water. Getting low-flow toilets and high-efficiency washing machines is a good way to cut back on water usage and save more water for other residential activities, such as landscaping and gardening. But even though you’ll probably have to use less water on your yard and garden, don’t worry. It’s still surprisingly easy to keep your lawn and garden looking healthy and beautiful by following a few simple tips.

Water-Wise Landscaping

Even with landscaping and gardening, which can use large amounts of water, it’s still possible to cut down on water usage and have a beautiful and healthy yard. One method is called water-wise landscaping. Water-wise landscaping is a technique that involves planning a yard based on the local climate and native flora. Once a water-wise yard or garden has been established, it should require much less watering than a typical garden. To maximize water efficiency, you’ll have to follow a watering schedule and use good irrigation design. This can involve using either a manual or automatic sprinkler system and designing it so that it only applies water when needed.

Building A Water-Wise Garden

Taking the local climate into consideration, the next step in creating a water-friendly landscape means selecting the right plants, shrubs, and grasses for your garden. The technique of using water-wise plants in the garden is called “xeriscaping,” and it’s a great way to add variety and color to your garden. In fact, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the number of colorful, fragrant, and low-maintenance plants that will do quite well with minimal amounts of water. In California, as with other areas of the country, there is a considerable emphasis on using local and native plants to create a water-wise garden. Native plants adapt over time to their specific conditions. Therefore, they tend to grow better in a given area and use less resources like water, fertilizer, and pesticides. A local landscaping company in Santa Cruz can point out native plants that might do well on your property. Paying attention to the amount of sunlight, shade, temperatures, and wind direction that dominates your property helps you choose plants that need either sun, shade, or a combination of both.

Water-Wise Plants And Shrubs For California

Now that you have some idea of what your property’s characteristics are, it’s time to start building a beautiful yard and garden. If you’re not sure what to get, feel free to contact us and we’d be glad to help you out. Fortunately, there are a variety of attractive plants and flowers that do quite well in droughts and in regions where there’s less water available. Here are some good choices:

Blanket Flower
Spanish Lavender
Sea Holly
Kangaroo Paw
African Daisy
Pincushion Flower
Strawberry Tree

Blanket flower is a beautiful plant that with red-orange flowers that resemble the shape of a daisy. It requires a moderate amount of water. Spanish lavender is praised for its attractive dark purple flowers and delightful scent. Sea holly, with a purple-blue flower and silvery stems, is equally enchanting. Both Spanish lavender and sea holly require moderate water. Kangaroo paw is a stunning flower with yellow, red, or orange blooms. This plant can survive drought and does well in sandy soil. African daisy has blooms that cover a wide color spectrum of bright orange to dark purple. This flower also needs moderate watering.

If you want to get your garden going early in the year, pincushion flowers are a natural choice. Their colorful flowers appear in late January to early February, and they’re perfect for cutting and placing in a vase. Aloe is another top choice for a water-wise California garden. In addition to providing soothing topical relief from burns and stings, aloe looks stunning in the garden with yellow, red, and orange blooms.

In addition to plants and flowers, trees and shrubs can make your yard pop. If you want to add a fruiting tree to your landscape, the strawberry tree is a wonderful option. The tree produces rich, flavorful berries that turn a deep red when mature. Strawberry trees are quite hardy and require little water. Cotoneaster and brittlebush are both shrubs that do well with minimal watering. Cotoneaster also produces colorful red berries, and it thrives in full sun.