A blueprint for designing and maintaining a water-efficient landscape can be summed up in 8 steps:
Group Plants According to Water Needs - Separation of natives, low-water-use shrubs, trees, and thirsty turfgrass into different "hydrozones" allows for more efficient irrigation scheduling, view the document Site Plan With Hydrozones (PDF).
Use Native and Low-Water-Use Plants - Perennials, shrubs, trees, and groundcovers that are naturally adapted to our Mediterranean climate can add tremendous color and beauty to the landscape. Once established, these plants survive with little or no water other than rainfall.
Limit Turf Areas to Those Needed for Practical Purposes - Lawns require the greatest share of landscape irrigation water. By limiting turf to areas used for recreation and other functional purposes, you can reserve the rest of the landscaped area for alternative plants and hardscape features. Use our Cash For Grass rebate incentive to replace your existing lawn areas.
Use Efficient Irrigation Systems - Well-designed and -installed systems, automatic shutoff valves, rain sensors, and regular maintenance of drip lines and sprinkler heads are essential components of efficient irrigation.
Schedule Irrigation Wisely - Infrequent, deep watering is generally the best strategy. Early morning is the best time to avoid evaporation loss. Use a standard controller's multiple start time feature to minimize run times and eliminate runoff. Adjust schedule at least monthly to match the changing weather by using our free Sprinkler Times tool, or consider using a weather-based "Smart" controller.
Make Sure Soil is Healthy - Healthy soil amended with organic matter such as compost helps plants retain moisture and resist evaporation. Compacted soil should be aerated occasionally.
Remember to Mulch - A layer of mulch over the soil around plants will reduce evaporation and inhibit the growth of water-stealing weeds.