If you want a more sustainable landscape, start here to learn about:
- Landscape design guides, templates, and examples
- Landscape professionals and nurseries
- Lawn care tips and maintenance during droughts
- Irrigation tips and resources
Landscape design guides & professionals
Not sure where to start? Learn how to choose plants that require less water, and find nurseries and landscape professionals that can help. Get inspired by browsing examples of sustainable landscapes and find resources for design guides and templates.
Water-wise plant information
What is a water-wise plant?
"A term used to describe water- and plant-management practice that emphasizes using plants that have lower supplemental water needs and grouping plants by water needs to encourage more efficient water use." - gardening magazine
See a list of water-plants best suited to the region.
Additional plant lists
Browse the websites below to explore what plants would be best for your project:
- California Native Plant Society's Plant Database
- UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars
- San Jose Water Company's Water-Wise Plant Database
- Santa Clara Valley Water District's Approved Plant List
- PlantRight Guide to Better Plants
Find landscape professionals
Whether you’re starting a new landscape project or maintaining your existing landscape, this information will help you quickly and easily find landscape professionals in your area. Receive advice and resources on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices from Santa Clara County's UC Master Gardeners.
Landscape professionals with rebate experience
The lists below are intended to help you find companies familiar with Valley Water’s rebate programs with experience in landscape design, construction, and maintenance. This information is not intended to be an endorsement of any one company.
Landscape professionals: If you wish to be added to or removed from this list or have general questions, contact Ashley Shannon at (408) 630-2951. Be prepared to verify that you have had three or more clients participate in the Landscape Rebate Program to be eligible to be added to the list.
Landscape professionals with sustainability background
This section provides a variety of landscape professional resources. They may not have experience with Valley Water's rebate programs, but do have experience in sustainable landscape practices or efficient irrigation techniques.
- Find a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper in your area. A certification program to educate landscape professionals and their customers on effective landscape design, management and irrigation practices, QWEL landscapers are trained in water-wise landscape practices including:
- plant selection,
- irrigation system design, and
- water Management
- Find locally-trained landscapers to help reduced water use and improve irrigation efficiency with the WaterSense Program.
- Find a Green Gardener trained in sustainable landscape maintenance practices.
- The California Landscape Contractors Association offers a list of certified landscape contractors also.
- Greywater Action and Central Coast Greywater Alliance provide lists of experienced graywater contractors also.
There are many nurseries in the Bay Area that carry a variety of water-efficient plants appropriate for our climate. These nurseries also have trained staff to help with your questions. Check out our list of local nurseries [PDF] to help you get started.
Additionally, find EPA WaterSense-certified products and water-saving tools, tips, and more.
Sustainable landscape design guides & templates
View design guides and templates to create a sustainable landscape:
- The Sustainable Landscape Guidelines offers a watershed approach to landscaping with in depth tips on improving soil health, capturing rainwater, plant selection, and design inspirations for gardens in Santa Clara County. Now available in multiple languages:
Design templates of water-wise gardens from the South Bay Green Gardens Work Group. The group also provides resources for composting, rainwater harvesting (including rain barrels), stormwater pollution prevention, integrated pest management, climate-appropriate landscaping, and more.
Get free landscape design assistance with the Calscape Garden Planner.
Explore Calscape's Bay Area Garden Planner to assist you in designing your landscaping Projects.
Looking to install beautiful, low-maintenance landscaping that won't burst your water budget? Get your project started with some ideas from San Jose Water Company.
Examples & inspiration
See examples of sustainable landscapes and get inspired to create your own:
Find water-efficient demonstration gardens in your neighborhood for inspiration! Demonstration gardens are wonderful sources of inspiration and practical information for families and landscape professionals alike. Visit our demonstration gardens page to plan your visit.
Learn how to adjust your landscape irrigation to reduce water use and comply with Valley Water's 2 day per week watering ordinance using the Drought Irrigation Schedule.
Lawn care, gardening, pool and watering tips
Find tips for watering, caring for and maintaining your lawn, gardens, trees and pool, in particular during a drought or high temperatures.
Lawn care tips
Lawns can be the single biggest water user for a typical property; a small lawn can use more than 18,000 gallons a year. That means lawns offer the greatest potential for water savings! Consider eliminating unused lawn and re-landscaping with permeable paving materials and plants appropriate for our local climate.
Maintaining and watering lawn during drought
During a drought or high temperatures, managing the water that you apply to your lawn is essential. Following some simple maintenance best practices can also help it survive the drought.
- Water less. Reduce the number of watering days per week and/or reduce the minutes of watering per day. The lawn won’t look its best, but it will survive.
- "Cycle and soak” method. Split your watering time into two cycles spaced about an hour apart to allow the water to soak in, reducing runoff and water waste.
- Check your sprinkler heads. Repair broke, crooked or sunken heads and clogged nozzles. Adjust the spray pattern to prevent sprinklers from watering pavement.
- Adjust mow height. Mow lawns 2½-to-3 inches high once a week. Taller grass blades promote deeper roots and will shade the soil, resulting in less evaporation.
Find more tips in our Drought Survival: Lawn Care Guide [PDF].
General lawn care tips
- Lawn irrigation, fertilizer-use, and maintenance information from the California Water Efficient Partnership.
- Thinking of artificial turf? Although artificial turf is appropriate for some properties and uses less water than natural turf, the district’s artificial turf information sheet may help encourage you to choose low water-using landscapes that can effectively promote biodiversity and help fight climate change instead.
- Are you a site manager or property manager and don't know where to start? The Pacific Institute offers this step-by-step guide for taking sustainable landscape projects from ideas to reality!
- Ready to remove your lawn? Apply for the rebate and once approved, start with this comprehensive guide to Sheet Mulching.
- This City of San José Sustainable Landscaping Guide will help you make your garden more sustainable. How would you make this work in your own garden? See visual guides and sustainable-landscaping gardens you can visit in San José for inspiration.
Native plant and Master Gardeners
- Receive advice and resources on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices from Santa Clara County's UC Master Gardeners.
- Promote native plant species biodiversity within your landscape, and learn about the natural ecosystems of Santa Clara Valley from the California Native Plant Society.
Tree care tips
These tips will help you maintain and care for new or existing trees and shrubs:
- Drought tips. Find easy guidelines to follow and protect your trees during drought or high temperatures from Save Our Water.
- Caring for trees. View quick tips for planting, watering, and pruning your trees from Our City Forest.
- Best practices. See a thorough list of Best Practices from the City of San José.
- Tree care resources. To learn steps to Save our Water and our Trees visit Canopy.
- Planting trees can lower energy costs, improve mental and physical health, and provide a multitude of other environmental services and benefits! Learn more about the City of San Jose's Tree Rebate Program.
Pool care tips
How do I prevent evaporative water loss from my pool?
Evaporation from swimming pools contributes to water and energy waste. Evaporative water loss from uncovered pools can waste 12,000 to 31,000 gallons of water a year (EPA WaterSense). Using a pool cover can prevent up to 95 percent of pool water evaporation. Pool covers also keep debris from contaminating pool water and clogging filtration systems.
How do I check for leaks in my pool?
Leaks in your pool’s structure or plumbing system can also be the source of significant water waste. Regularly check your pool for leaks to reduce the amount of water needed to refill on a regular basis. To determine if your pool has a leak,
- place a bucket on the top step of the pool,
- fill it with water to the water level of the pool.
- leave the bucket for 24 hours, and if after that time the water loss in the pool is greater than the water loss in the bucket, you likely have a leak.
Also, to prevent water loss, be sure not to overfill your pool and to regularly check the auto-fill valves to assure they are not stuck.
Learn about more water efficiency tips for your pool in the EPA WaterSense Pool Water Efficiency Guide.
Does Valley Water have restrictions on pools?
Restrictions on pools, including refiling, new construction, and pool covers are set by individual water retailers and/or cities and may vary throughout the county. As a water wholesaler, Valley Water does not have land use authority and cannot prohibit the construction of pools. The construction of a pool is permitted and approved by the local jurisdiction’s building and/or planning department(s). Additionally, the local water retailer has the authority to restrict the filling or refilling of swimming pools. Valley Water encourages replacing existing pools with low water use landscape by offering a rebate of $2/square foot through the Landscape Rebate Program.
To address the current drought conditions, Valley Water’s June 9, 2021 resolution (Resolution No. 21-68) declaring a water shortage emergency urges the County, cities, and water retailers to prohibit the use of potable water for the filling or refilling of swimming pools, among other water use prohibitions. Similarly, the regulatory agency overseeing private water retailers encourages comparable water use prohibitions; however, the decision to implement and enforce water use restrictions affecting pools lies with the local water retailer.
How can I find out if there are pool restrictions in my City?
We recommend residents and businesses contact their individual water retailers for information about restrictions and/or guidelines on pool construction, filling, and maintenance. To find your retailer, visit www.valleywater.org/your-water/find-your-water-retailer. While some municipalities have requirements already in place for new pools to install pool covers. If the drought worsens, most municipalities will move to restrict pool installation and fillings through their Water Shortage Contingency Plans.
Irrigation & sprinkler equipment
Visit our Sprinklers & Irrigation page to find easy-to-understand information about how residential sprinkler systems work, information on drip irrigation and other smart ways to reduce landscape water use, as well as loads of online resources.
Landscape rebate program
Valley Water's landscape rebate program is designed to encourage residents and businesses to:
- Convert approved high-water use landscape, such as lawns and pools, to low-water use landscape.
- Retrofit existing irrigation equipment with approved high-efficiency irrigation equipment.