Water, the lifeblood of Arizona’s desert landscape, is undeniably a precious resource. In the face of a semi-arid to arid climate and rapid population growth, our state grapples with unique water challenges. To safeguard the well-being of our communities and support continued development, responsible water usage and conservation are of utmost importance.

The reliance on groundwater, rivers, and reservoirs to meet our water demands is evident; however, prolonged droughts and escalating water consumption have led to a concerning decline in water levels, endangering both ecosystems and human communities.

Amidst these environmental challenges, we must take action by adopting sustainable water designs to create and maintain effective water conservation initiatives.

As Mark Reddie, RVi’s Vice President in Scottsdale, aptly puts it, “Water is the lifeblood of our desert state, and practicing water conservation in Arizona is not just a choice but a responsibility to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.”

At the forefront of many of these efforts is our Scottsdale Planning and Landscape Architecture team. As planners and landscape architects, we hold the power to help shape Arizona’s future of water usage. By adopting sustainable practices, promoting water-efficient designs, and raising awareness about responsible water consumption, we can contribute significantly to mitigating the water crisis.

Here’s several effort that RVi is currently incorporating and considering in our designs to transform our arid desert landscape into a thriving oasis, all while preserving its precious water resources.

  1. Xeriscaping and Native Plants:

Conservation landscaping, often known as xeriscaping, presents a remarkable opportunity to reduce outdoor water consumption substantially. However, several misconceptions surround xeriscapic landscapes, primarily stemming from a misunderstanding of their true purpose and functionality. Contrary to popular belief, conservation landscaping doesn’t have to translate into rock-filled yards adorned with sparse plantings of exotic cacti, yucca, and agave. Nor does it have to resemble a wild, untamed mess of weeds and wildflowers. When skillfully designed, xeriscapic or conservation landscapes can be as stunning as a traditional lawn, offering both formal and informal spaces for a plethora of enjoyable activities.

A practical modification worth emphasizing is a shift towards vegetation native to the southern desert, which naturally adapts to survive the challenges of low water cycles without relying on constant irrigation. While non-native species might offer lush aesthetics or much-needed shading, favored by Valley residents as a respite from the harsh desert environment, we must limit extensive use of these water-demanding plants to specific targeted areas where their impact is most meaningful.

At the heart of conservation landscaping lies the perfect harmony between sustainability and beauty. By dispelling misconceptions and embracing the natural resilience of native vegetation, we can create landscapes that not only preserve precious water resources but also inspire admiration and delight for the communities they grace. Let us join hands in crafting a greener, more sustainable tomorrow for the desert we call home.

  1. Drought-Tolerant Turf Alternatives:

In water-conscious landscapes, traditional turfgrass proves to be an impractical choice, demanding copious amounts of water to flourish. As we strive for sustainable solutions, we actively explore and consider drought-tolerant turf alternatives. By incorporating select native grasses, trees, and alternative ground coverings, they create alluring green spaces that thrive on less water.

A trend that is gaining momentum is the implementation of turf restrictions in community common areas and yards, which is a significant focus for municipalities committed to substantial water-use reductions. For instance, the City of Las Vegas, which has even fewer water resources than communities in the Phoenix area, took a pioneering step over two decades ago by adopting ordinance restrictions on turf use, leading to substantial residential water savings. Additionally, the emergence of high-quality artificial turf products has offered fresh possibilities, programming opportunities, granting homeowners, business owners, and residential communities new choices beyond traditional grass.

  1. Smart Irrigation Technology:

In the quest for water conservation, the adoption of smart irrigation controllers has emerged as a potent yet underutilized solution. These controllers, including weather-based controllers and soil moisture sensors, have the potential to yield significant reductions in outdoor water usage for both communities and individual homeowners. By harnessing real-time weather data and monitoring the moisture needs of plants, these systems intelligently adjust watering schedules. The result is a landscape that receives precisely the right amount of water, eliminating wastage during rainy periods or when irrigation is unnecessary.

Incorporating smart irrigation controllers into landscape design not only curtails water waste but also ensures the proper care and maintenance of installed landscapes. According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the use of smart irrigation controllers can lead to an average reduction of 15-30% in outdoor water consumption compared to conventional irrigation methods. (Source: EPA WaterSense)

  1. Greywater Systems:

In the pursuit of sustainable water management, greywater proves to be an invaluable resource. This relatively clean wastewater from sinks, showers, and laundry can be recycled and safely repurposed for landscape irrigation. By integrating greywater systems into residential and commercial properties, we open up new possibilities to significantly reduce the demand for freshwater for non-potable purposes.

Greywater recycling offers a dual benefit: it minimizes the strain on freshwater resources while providing a practical and eco-friendly solution for landscape irrigation needs. By diverting greywater away from the sewage system and instead channeling it towards nurturing our outdoor spaces, we take a significant step towards water conservation.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the adoption of greywater recycling systems in homes and businesses can save an average of 20-30% of indoor water consumption, translating to substantial reductions in overall water usage. (Source: EPA)

  1. Establishing Commercial Landscape Guidelines

While sustainable commercial landscape design guidelines have successfully reduced water consumption for such developments, their residential counterparts have been somewhat lacking. At RVi, we have taken the initiative to bridge this gap by collaborating with various water utilities, the Home Builders Association, the design community, and various municipalities to develop landscape standards specifically tailored for residential developments. These comprehensive guidelines aim to address the ecological, economic, and aesthetic needs of all stakeholders, ensuring their adaptability for implementation across diverse counties and municipalities throughout the United States.

As stewards of our natural resources and advocates for sustainable development, it is our duty to continually minimize the impact of urbanization, envisioning a more environmentally responsible future. Arizona, in particular, stands at the forefront, poised to be a global model for water-wise living, showcasing how a community can thrive while preserving its invaluable natural resources.

At RVi, we envision water-secure communities that will serve as a legacy for generations to come. To achieve this vision, we invite you to join us in our endeavors. Share your thoughts, ideas, and project goals for future editions of our newsletter – let our collaboration pave the way for sustainable progress. Reach out to us, and together, we can work hand in hand to create a greener, more resilient future where thriving communities and precious resources coexist in harmony.