Despite recent extreme weather changes in Central Texas, water conservation remains a long-term concern for homeowners and utility companies alike. To address this issue, I recently joined forces with a team led by Hank Smith of Texas Engineering Solutions and including Mike Fishbaugh of Coleman & Associates to create a set of landscape guidelines for residential developments. Working in partnership with the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin (HBA), the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), and the City of Austin, the group’s goal is to arm developers, homebuilders, and homeowners with the information and tools they need to make sensible decisions about residential landscapes.

The guidelines involve limiting the amount of unnecessary sod and water-hoarding plants commonly included in builders’ landscaping packages, and instead offering more native and adapted species as an option for homeowners. In a presentation to builders, regional municipalities, and counties earlier this month, the team explained the numerous benefits of sustainable landscape design for everyone involved.

While certain portions of a home’s landscape are well-suited for irrigated sod, each day homeowners spend thousands of dollars to irrigate large sections of lawn that ultimately remain unused, such as the front and side yards. The team discussed the large variety of water-wise plants and materials that can be used to replace these underutilized portions. One key point was the fact that “xeriscape” does not have to mean desert dry rocks, sad shrubs, and cliché Texas cactus. Over the past decade, we have seen a significant improvement in the available materials and sustainable design techniques which add a contemporary flair to the curb appeal of a home. Not only do homeowners love the contemporary look of a well-executed and sensible landscape design, the reduced maintenance time and cost is equally attractive.

The guidelines were officially adopted by the HBA in April, and the team is encouraging adoption by local builders, municipalities, and counties as soon as possible.

You can download a copy of the guidelines here.