April 27, 2015 Dinorah Matias-Melendez

5 Important Ways To Respect Water Life in Your Landscape

Water in your Landscape

Water is essential for all living species. The planet is 70% covered by it, and this fact alone had given the fake assumption (to many of us on developed countries- at least) that it was an unlimited resource that could be used in a very indulgent manner. However, each day it’s more obvious that our water resources are limited and should be taken care. One local example, here in the United States, is the drought in California and the multiple new regulations being applied as a result of it,

Our landscapes can be one of the most important areas where to act with responsibility towards an issue, that even if it’s miles away from us, will affect the way we carry life nowadays -again, just check California’s new rules about water use. With this in mind, here are 5 important ways to implement in your landscape designs to respect and conserve such a valuable resource. These 5 points can be followed by designers and homeowners.

#1. Respect natural drainage patterns

As part of creating outdoor spaces you regularly find the need to modify the topography of your land. If this is the case, apply, or request if you’re the client, a plan that considers the way water will navigate in your property. First at all water should run away from your foundation! this is kind of unrelated to this post, but you should know this…

Now back to topic,  if the shape of the land becomes too steep or too leveled, it’ll cause either erosion or poodles and it’ll not maximize the water absorption of the soil. Another example is if too much impermeable material is used in the project, here the amount of runoff water will increase and trigger a lot of unwanted consequences and expenses.

#2 Deal with stormwater near where it falls

When the rain can not be absorbed by the soil, it creates runoff.

In natural settings, runoff supplies water to streams, lakes, rivers, etc . But when it’s in excess, it causes flooding and erosion – not good for human settlements. In urban settings, the runoff tends to drag with it pollutants, that then are channeled through our built infrastructure to natural sources that become contaminated- then a vicious cycle harder to fix than to avoid is created. This is why is so important to embrace permeable surfaces in your projects; it helps reduce the contamination of our watersheds that not only supply us, but also animals that don’t have a voice to complain.

There are different ways to deal with storm water on location…one of them could be (as mentioned above) increasing the use of permeable surfaces, two others are the use of bioswale and/or water collectors.

Tassafaronga Housing Village in Oakland, CA by David Baker + Partners

Tassafaronga Housing Village in Oakland, CA by David Baker + Partners

#3 Accept regional limitations of water supply

It’s unsustainable from an economical and maintenance stand point to create a landscape that doesn’t fit your regional patterns (I can create you a gorgeous one if you want, but I’ll give you heads up – if you allow me  to – about the pros and cons of going against the current).

Creating a landscape with a selection of non-native plants – in most cases is more labor intensive than when a local selection dominates the design. Why? because you will need to keep providing an environment that is familiar to the exotic plant(s) to thrive, and you will need to help the exotic plants to fight the pests and diseases that they are not familiar in this new ecosystem.

#4 Collect and Conserve Water

Well, I have some sad news for you, there are rivers drying up due to our human habit of consuming more than our share…but I have a good news for you too, you can be unlinked of that crowd by helping conserve it when you start collecting runoff and reuse it for your landscape irrigation.

EPA studies show that “landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.” Wooo!! That’s a lot….Two ideas: start catching rainwater from your roof and paved areas using sleek rainwater barrels or cisterns and install today an automated/sensor drip irrigation systems to irrigate your gardens in a smart, more efficient way- You can check this soil moisture sensor-automatic watering saving irrigation.

#5 Keep your soil healthy.

A healthier soil absorbs water better and retains the moist longer, thanks to the spongy composition of its particles. By adding natural compost every couple of months you avoid the starvation of the microorganisms in charge of keeping the soil healthy; you also encourage their survival so they can continue to aerate and amend it on a regular basis. (FYI: there is unhealthy compost in the market that has additives added)

Healthy soil

Taking care of your landscape while taking care of the environment as a whole is not a difficult task. It can easily be addressed as part of your new project or if reassessing your existing landscape. You only need to take the decision to go greener and indulge yourself in a healthier surrounding that guarantees an air with less pollutants, less labor in your garden to keep it gorgeous, more money savings, and better connection to the rest of nature.

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About the Author

Dinorah Matias-Melendez Founder & principal of DMM Studio, LLC, a NYC-based architectural & landscape firm that designs sustainable & contemporary spaces that uplift the user's experience. She holds a B.S. in Architecture, a M.S. in Landscape Design, and a LEED accreditation that validates her eco-sound expertise. She ♥ animals, living in NYC and ✈ around the world.