By Ali Sahabi of Optimum Group, LLC
President, Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter
Thanks to a series of fast-moving Pacific storms ranging across the western United States last week, Californians this week are breathing a little easier as rain replenished snowpacks and parched reservoirs throughout the state. However, while the rains offered welcome relief from our recent dry period, Southern California still faces a host of ongoing water issues.
Here in the Baldy View Region, which encompasses all of San Bernardino County and the eastern portion of Los Angeles County, we enjoy what is known as a Mediterranean climate that is distinguished by warm, wet winters and calm, dry summers. This particular type of climate is usually characterized by drought cycles: periods of drought followed by periods of abundant rainfall. This combination of sunshine and rain cycles served to make California both an agricultural powerhouse and the most desired destination for homeowners, homebuyers and businesses. And that is why conserving water is one of the most important things we can do to protect our quality of life.
Today, landscaping is the biggest consumer of water in Southern California. It plays an important aspect of protecting the home’s value and the homeowner’s family’s health. Landscaping can beautify, insulate and protect your home and save money by reducing energy and water costs. The good news is: Today homeowners can reduce their water bills by hundreds of dollars annually by replacing traditional lawns with water-saving desertscaping known as xeriscaping, which involves using natural precipitation to meet your landscape's watering needs and reduce water usage.
If you are a homeowner who prefers traditional lawn landscapes, using plants that are drought tolerant will conserve water and provide variety to the landscape – especially when keeping flowers and vegetation with similar water needs in the same beds or close to each other for maximum conservation.
If you are planning on getting started on any landscaping efforts this spring, start by checking with your local water district. Water districts are the best resource when it comes to providing water-conserving landscaping guidance for their customers. Call your local water provider or visit www.bewaterwise.com, a website of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the family of Southern California water agencies. The website offers great tips on how to save money and water by using irrigation systems more efficiently by using a watering calculator that creates a customized watering schedule to manage your automatic timer or a watering index, a scientifically based figure that will guide your watering schedule according to changes in the weather.
Then, consult with a local nursery or home and garden center for suggestions on the best types of trees and shrubs that will thrive where you live. Because many communities encourage the planting of certain types of native species, local nurseries are generally very knowledgeable on the subject. Likewise, homeowners associations (HOAs) often provide landscape design guidelines including approved plants and trees. Check with your HOA to determine if changes to your landscape might require preapproval or architectural review.
The right landscaping can also add further savings by insulating homes from the elements. For instance, planting deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves during the winter) in front of windows that receive significant amounts of sunlight will block solar heat in the summer while letting it in during the winter when you need it most. Depending on the species, a six- to eight -foot deciduous tree will begin shading your windows the first year and your roof within five to 10 years.
For regions like ours where we enjoy abundant sunshine, evergreens or shrubs can be used to limit the sunlight entering through windows and provide excellent windbreaks. Evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the side of your house can help reduce the effect of our unique Santa Ana winds.
Likewise, cooling other public areas such as patios can also offer great opportunities to reduce your overall energy costs. Hedges, trellises or large bushes and shrubs offer significant amounts of shade to help cool these areas.
For more information about water-, energy- and resource-efficient landscaping, visit The National Arbor Day Foundation at www.arborday.org. For further reading on home improvements that will beautify and enhance the value of your home, visit our website at www.BIABuild.com on the web.