Paul and Ann Kasameyer of Livermore are among several Valley residents who have opened their drought-tolerant gardens up to public tours that have become annual events in the East Bay to showcase what we can also do to reduce our water footprint. Most of the landscaping in both the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour and the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour typify ways that people can creative beautiful, pesticide-free gardens that conserve water -- and are easy to maintain.
"We did it for our allergies and to have a nice-looking way to do things -- and save water," Paul Kasameyer said of his colorful yard, thriving with drought-tolerant iris, verbena, ceanothus, desert plants, deer grass and fuschia. Not only the plants accustomed to California's naturally arid weather, "They attract a lot of butterflies and hummingbirds; it's so fun!"
When their drought-tolerant plants do need to be irrigated, Kathryn McClelland and Greg Trott of Pleasanton use buckets of reclaimed water captured while washing vegetables in the kitchen sink or while heating up the bathroom shower. Their yard has been featured in the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour.
Although their homeowners association requires them to have a front lawn, they conserve water there by top dressing with compost, using a mulching mower to disperse clippings back on the ground, and leaving the grass a little taller than before to retain moisture. Now, their grassy areas need a weekly watering -- at most.
"I've been a gardener for a long time, and I'm always looking for ways to cut down on work and cut down on watering," McClelland said. "When you go with native plants that are acclimated to the area, they're easier to take care of, the water needs are low, and they're beautiful."
Eric Renger of Dublin had his yard included in the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour after replacing his front lawn with perennial drought-tolerant plants. Grouping by water need, also known as "hydrozoning," is key to his garden's success.
"Probably the biggest water-saving feature in my yard is a drip-irrigation system with four separate valves -- two for the front yard and two for the back," he said. "It means we've been able to group thirstier plants in some areas and the more drought-tolerant plants in other areas and give them all the right amount of water."
Renger, who doesn't use pestices or herbicides, uses lots of mulch and compost to retain moisture and reduce runoff into storm drains.
Here's what some other local "Water Saving Heroes" are doing:
- Ed and Anne Severs of Livermore also have had their front yard featured in the Bringing Back the Natives garden tour, and they've found lots of other ways to save water. They have low-flow showerheads and toilets and a high-efficiency clothes washer, and they cover their pool during the summer with a solar blanket that helps prevent evaporation (and saves energy in heating their pool). "In winter, we keep the cover off and let the rain fill the pool to the very top," Anne Severs said.
- Stephen Woodward of Livermore has detected and fixed big water leaks by regularly checking his water bill for unusual spikes in usage.
- Paula Rose of Livermore has a rule at her house: never run the dishwasher or the clothes washer unless they're completely full.
- Bruce Crawford of Pleasanton says it's real simple to capture water while heating up in the bathroom shower in a bucket and use it to water his plants, fill his pet's water bowls or add to the swimming pool. He also got rid of some of his grass and converted to drip irrigation for his shrubs and groundcover. "Each little thing does not make much difference but you add them up, and it's something."
- George Chiampas of Dublin changed from sprinklers to a drip system to irrigate his shrubbery because, as he says, "it's much better for the plants and you don't lose water to the sidewalk." Chiampas also makes sure the sprinklers he does have come on at 4 a.m., instead of the middle of the afternoon, to reduce evaporation from the sun and wind.
- David Goosman of Livermore vastly improved his water-use efficiency by installing moisture sensors under a section of lawn that signal his irrigation system to come on as programmed only when actual moisture levels are lower than a set threshold. "It saves water, because it's a water-on-demand system rather than one that waters regardless of need," he says.
- Loan Phan of Pleasanton got a new water-efficient clothes washer (that even qualified for a rebate!), and she uses her outdoor sprinklers only in early morning to prevent evaporation.
- Todd and Barbara Wieskamp of Livermore use a broom -- not a hose -- to clean their patios.
- Art and Monica Silva of Dublin fill buckets as their shower water heats up and use the water for indoor and outdoor plants.
- Les Leibovitch of Livermore removed some lawn and an old, inefficient irrigation system, then planted some drought-tolerant plants and installed some micro-bubblers that provide a localized trickle of water near the roots. Once the plants are established, they'll require even less water! Meanwhile, sprinklers in his remaining grass area are better positioned to keep water from running onto the sidewalk or driveway.
- Jim and Glenna Cattermole of Livermore pay close attention to their water bill to see how much they're using, and adjust where they can. They shut off their automatic sprinklers during the rainy season and when they do water during summer, it's at 4 a.m. to prevent evaporation -- and still only two or three days a week for no more than 20 minutes.