Bureau of Reclamation gets into the xeriscaping movement

An example of xeriscaping
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March 13, 2023 — The Bureau of Reclamation broke ground last week to signal the start of a project to remove the lawn at the Lower Colorado Basin Region administration building at Boulder City, Nevada.  The lawn will be replaced with water-saving xeriscaping.

The project, funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, includes transition from grass to xeriscape at the agency’s training center. It is estimated to save more than two million gallons of Colorado River water annually, according to the Bureau’s press release.  Two million gallons of water is 6.14 acre-feet.

“As Reclamation prepares to offer funding opportunities for similar projects to replace lawns and high-water use landscaping with xeriscape that is native to the Southwest, we are looking internally for changes we can make to reduce water use,” said Deputy Regional Director David ArendOpens in a new tab.. “This project will significantly reduce our water use and transition the landscape to blend in with the surrounding desert.”

The Bureau plans on starting the project this month, with a late-June completion date. The project will replace the lawn and associated turf surrounding the facilities with low water usage vegetation, including drought-tolerant and native trees, shrubs, and plants and ensures accessibility under the Americans with Disability Act. When completed, the regional office grounds will feature a meandering composite path surrounded by small groves of native plants, trees and shrubs. Other improvements to the sites include elevated community gathering spots, drip and low-pressure irrigation systems, and interpretive signs profiling the native vegetation and historic artifacts placed at the site.

Reclamation also plans to upgrade the irrigation systems to improve site maintenance. The new irrigation system at the administration building will not use municipal water; instead, it will use raw water from a pipeline in Park Street. The agency is evaluating the feasibility of using an existing raw water pipeline near the training center xeriscape area.

A Look at Xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping is a landscape design technique that focuses on reducing water consumption while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing outdoor environment. This technique has become increasingly popular among homeowners, environmental enthusiasts and gardening experts. With climate change affecting weather patterns and causing more frequent droughts, xeriscaping has become vital to sustainability efforts. In this blog, we will explore the key principles of xeriscaping and provide you with practical tips to transform your outdoor space into a water-efficient haven. Whether you live in an arid region or simply want to save money on your water bills, xeriscaping is a great way to create a beautiful and sustainable landscape. Let’s dive in and discover how to xeriscape!

One crucial element of this sustainable landscaping practice is selecting plants that are native to your area. Here are some reasons why:

  1. They are adapted to your climate: Native plants have evolved to thrive in your specific climate, meaning they will be better equipped to handle weather patterns and drought conditions in your area.
  2. They require less maintenance: Because they are naturally suited to your region, native plants will require less maintenance and water to remain healthy.
  3. They support local ecosystems: Choosing native plants helps to support local wildlife habitats, as well as maintain the overall biodiversity of your area.

You can also visit local nurseries to find a selection of native plants that will work well in your xeriscape.

Water-wise hardscaping.

Reduce the amount of hardscaping in your landscaped areas to save on water usage.  By reducing the amount of hardscaping in your landscaped areas, you can save water and create a more sustainable outdoor space. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Choose permeable surfaces: When designing a water-wise hardscape, choose materials that allow water to seep through, such as gravel, permeable pavers, or flagstone. This will reduce runoff and help water to penetrate the soil.
  2. Opt for natural elements: Incorporating natural elements like boulders, rocks, and logs into your landscape design can help to create a more natural look that requires less water. Plus, these elements can provide habitat for wildlife.
  3. Consider alternatives to turf: Instead of having a traditional grass lawn, consider using groundcovers like thyme, chamomile, or creeping Jenny to create a lush green carpet that requires less water. Artificial turf is also an option, but keep in mind that it can become hot and uncomfortable to walk on during the summertime.
  4. Use shade wisely: Trees and other large plants can provide shade and help to reduce the amount of water that evaporates from your landscape. Be strategic about where you plant trees, placing them in areas where they can provide the most shade to your home or outdoor living spaces.

By reducing the amount of hardscaping in your landscape design, you can create a more sustainable outdoor space that requires less water. Plus, by using natural elements, shade, and ground covers, you can create a landscape that is beautiful and functional. So, take the time to plan and design a water-wise hardscape that works for your home and property.

Pretty cactus

Less lawn, more plants.

Minimize the lawn areas in your landscape design to increase the number of drought-tolerant plants. An important aspect of xeriscaping is reducing the amount of lawn areas in your landscape design. Here are some tips to help you minimize your lawn and increase the number of drought-tolerant plants:

  1. Consider the purpose: Think about how you use your lawn. If it’s only used for aesthetics, consider replacing it with plants that require less water and maintenance.
  2. Choose the right plants: There are many beautiful plants that thrive in a xeriscape. Choose plants that are native to your area and require less water.
  3. Group plants by water needs: Hydrozoning is important in xeriscaping. Group plants according to their water needs so you can water more efficiently.
  4. Incorporate hardscaping: Use rocks, gravel, or other hardscaping elements to create pathways or other features that reduce the need for lawn areas.

By minimizing your lawn areas and increasing the number of drought-tolerant plants, you’ll be able to create a beautiful and sustainable landscape. Plus, you’ll save time and money by reducing the amount of maintenance required.

Add a Dash of Color.

Choose plants with foliage and flowers that coordinate with other elements of your landscape design.

  1. Use a color wheel to guide your selection. Look for colors that complement or contrast with existing elements in your yard, such as the color of your house, fence, or patio furniture.
  2. Choose plants with a range of flower shapes and sizes to add visual interest. Consider incorporating elements like spikes, globes, or clusters of flowers for added texture.
  3. Coordinate foliage colors with other plants in your yard. For example, if you have a lot of greenery, consider adding pops of purple, pink, or yellow to add interest.
  4. Don’t overlook the importance of texture. Combine plants with different leaf shapes and sizes to create depth and visual appeal.
  5. Consider the seasonality of your plants. Look for plants that bloom at different times of year to ensure that your yard is always bursting with color.

With these tips in mind, you can create a stunning xeriscape that adds visual appeal and enhances the existing design elements in your yard.

Start with slow-growing plants that require minimal trimming.

1. Choose low-maintenance plants.

Not all plants are created equal when it comes to maintenance. By choosing slow-growing plants that don’t require much trimming, you can save time and effort. Some great options include agave, yucca, and ornamental grasses. Plus, these plants are drought-tolerant and perfect for xeriscaping.

2. Add texture to your landscape.

Using slow-growing plants with unique textures can add visual interest to your landscape. Planting a variety of textures will create a dynamic and eye-catching design. Consider adding some succulents or cacti to add variation in texture.

3. Embrace natural shapes.

Slow-growing plants tend to have more natural shapes, which can enhance the overall aesthetic of your landscape. By choosing plants with a more organic shape, you can create a more natural and cohesive design. Plus, natural shapes require less pruning.

Drought-Tolerant Plants.

  1. Agave: These iconic desert plants come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from small rosettes to towering specimens. They require little water or maintenance and can even thrive in rocky or sandy soil.
  2. Aloe: Aloe vera is just one example of the many types of aloe plants that can thrive in dry conditions. Their spiky leaves are a great addition to any xeriscape, and they produce beautiful flowers in the right conditions.
  3. Yucca: These tough, spiky plants are a classic xeriscape choice. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they require minimal care once established.
  4. Lavender: While not a succulent, this herb is a great addition to any xeriscape. It produces beautiful flowers and a soothing scent, and it requires minimal watering and maintenance.
  5. Sedum: This family of succulents includes many different varieties, all of which are perfect for xeriscaping. They come in a range of colors and textures, and they require little water or maintenance.

A xeriscaped patio area

While the above listed plants are great, regional and soil considerations are important.

  1. Research your region: Look up the USDA plant hardiness zoneOpens in a new tab. for your area and take note of the types of plants that thrive there. You can also consult with a local nursery or gardening expert for suggestions.
  2. Consider the soil: Different types of plants require different soil conditions, so make sure to choose plants that are well-suited to your soil type. If your soil is particularly dry or sandy, look for plants that have adapted to those conditions.
  3. Think about water needs: While native plants are generally more drought-tolerant, it’s still important to choose plants with similar water requirements. This will help you save water and ensure that all your plants thrive.
  4. Mix it up: Don’t be afraid to add some variety to your xeriscape by including different types of native plants. Consider adding some grasses, wildflowers, or groundcovers to your design.

By choosing native plants for your xeriscape, you can create a beautiful and sustainable landscape that requires less water and maintenance. Plus, you’ll be supporting the local ecosystem by providing habitat for native wildlife. So go ahead and get planting!

Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.

Mulch is an essential component of xeriscaping, as it helps to retain moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation. Here’s how you can use mulch in your xeriscaping efforts:

  1. Choose the right type of mulch: Gravel, pea gravel, rocks, and shredded bark are all effective types of mulch for xeriscaping. Be sure to choose a type that works well with the overall look and feel of your landscape design.
  2. Spread the mulch evenly: Once you’ve chosen your mulch, spread it evenly over the soil around your plants. This will help to keep the soil cool, prevent erosion, and reduce weed growth.
  3. Keep it thick: A layer of 2-4 inches of mulch is recommended to achieve the best results.
  4. Mulch around trees: Mulching around the base of trees can help to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk to prevent rot.
  5. Use mulch in raised beds: If you have raised beds in your xeriscape, mulch can help to retain moisture and reduce the need for frequent watering.

Efficient irrigation system ideas.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your water usage:

  1.  Consider drip irrigation: This method delivers water directly to the root base of plants, reducing water loss through evaporation and runoff.
  2. Use a rain barrel: Collecting rainwater is a free and easy way to supplement your irrigation needs, especially during dry spells.
  3. Time it right: The best time to water is in the early morning or late evening when the sun is not at its peak, which reduces water loss due to evaporation.
  4. Choose the right sprinkler head: If you use sprinklers, make sure to select heads that distribute water evenly and don’t result in excessive runoff.
  5. Install a smart controller: These innovative systems use weather data and soil moisture sensors to adjust watering schedules based on real-time conditions.




Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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