ECOLOGIC: Build a water-smart landscape

02-Feb-2019: Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”. This week she writes about size zero landscape…

Full article below: (Also available at The New Indian Express Website)

 Build a water-smart landscape 

Water is already becoming scarce in the city this year. It is time to look at the way in which we use water in all aspects — but landscaping, in general, is considered a water- guzzler. Zeroscaping is a play on the phonetically similar Xeriscaping — referring to the usage of plants with very little water requirements for their landscaping needs. The other word for this efficient landscaping is ‘Water-Smart Landscaping’ — The two concepts are very similar and following the principles of either will lead to a water-efficient and attractive landscape.

Water is our most precious natural resource; without it, there is no life. And yet, we use a lot of it to maintain expansive lawns which suck up a lot of water. Numbers from around the world show that people use anywhere between 30-70 per cent of their daily water consumption on maintaining their gardens! This is a huge number and a few simple tweaks will help bring down the amount of water we consume in our outdoors, especially in the summer, where the amount of water used by a household can exceed the amount used for all other purposes in the entire year. This is especially true in hot, dry climates.

The following is a list of must do’s in order to get your landscape areas to be more like ‘zero’ scapes! The first and most obvious thing to do is to look closely at the types of plants in the garden. Native plants usually need less water to live as they are already evolved and adapted to the microclimatic conditions. Once established, native and low water-using plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. So whether you are designing a new landscape or just sprucing up your current garden, be sure to check in on the water needs of the plants selected.

Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs is another way to reduce the amount of water used in a garden. Instead of an aesthetic grouping, hydrozone grouping will reduce the water use by allowing one to water to each zone’s specific needs. Lawn areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs. Grass lawns use the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping. It is a water-smart strategy to plant grass only where it has a practical function and also pick a native grass species like buffalo grass to keep the water usage to a minimum.



Once all the elements of the landscape are in place it becomes a matter of the daily maintenance routine also being sustainably followed. Knowing a plant’s water needs and avoid watering during the heat of the day are generally good practices for using less water. Larger landscapes use irrigation systems which will require regular calibration to perform optimally. Some countries have ‘rated’ irrigation systems (Such as the WaterSense Label, the equivalent of a star rated appliance for energy usage checks) which make the water metering even easier. Another much-required maintenance is the replacement of soil, manure, and de-weeding as necessary.

There are advantages to designing a water-smart landscape — right from the obvious ones like requiring less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and usually less maintenance.  Since the species are usually native, they attract and help maintain the habitat for plants and other wildlife within the ecosystem. The energy usage for motors and pumps to constantly water the plants also comes down significantly. Plant Native, Save Water!