Design guidelines

How a landscape is designed affects water use.

The design process considers three things at once – water conservation, site use, and aesthetics. All of these are considered together at the design concept stage, and again when the design details are completed.

Thinking about water conservation only at the point of irrigation design is too late to be effective. To meet the required targets, it is necessary to plan for water conservation as you think about landscape ideas and treatments, at the earliest stage in design and site planning.

The Design Case Study Video takes you through the design process, and shows how to integrate landscape design concepts and the water savings calculator. The site is a private residence, and the landscape job is a front lawn replacement. This is a small landscape job on Coastal BC – but what we do at this site, and what we learn here – applies equally to most landscape developments, large and small, across BC.

Download the Landscape and Irrigation Guide to Water Efficiency and see the tips below.

Key Guidelines for Landscape Design
Smart Landscape Design
  • Organize landscape into ‘hydrozones’ – areas of high, medium, low and no water need – design appropriate use of plant material with similar water demand within hydrozones .
  • Maximize the percentage of landscape area that is unirrigated/unwatered area, commensurate with landscape aesthetics and plant survival e.g. existing native vegetation to remain, or installing pervious paving, unplanted stone or organic mulch, pervious deck (strive for a minimum of 25% of the total landscape area).
  • Maximize retention or replanting of vegetation with low water-use requirements after the establishment period e.g. retained or planted native plants, wildflower meadow, rough grass, xeriscape plant species (strive for a minimum of 25 per cent of the total landscape area)
  • Minimize mown turf areas that are high water use areas (strive for a maximum of 25 - 50 per cent of total landscape area, with lower percentages preferable) – substitute with areas of lower water use treatments.
  • Ensure growing medium depth and quality to provide water storage and plant health.
  • Provide mulch cover to shrub and groundcover areas, to reduce evaporation from soil.
  • Use recirculated water systems for any water features such as pools and fountains.
Smart Irrigation Design
  • Group irrigation circuits/ zones into ‘hydrozones’ of high, medium and low or unirrigated areas consistent with the landscape planting plan.
  • Use reclaimed or recycled water or rainwater capture from roofs or rain barrels for outdoor water use when such is available, as a substitute for use of potable water. It is not the intent of this guideline to require a development to produce recycled water or install rainwater systems only for irrigation purposes.
  • Minimize use of high-volume spray heads, and employ drip or low volume irrigation where practical to meet the watering needs of hydrozones.
  • Use surface or subsurface drip irrigation or low volume irrigation technology to water long, narrow or irregularly shaped areas including turf areas less than 2.4m in width.
  • Use a smart controller that adjusts watering times automatically to changing weather.
  • Ensure landscape and irrigation design and installation standards including adjustments and irrigation scheduling meet irrigation specifications – consider the City specifications as a standard of best practice, or use a spec at a similar level of detail provided by a Qualified Professional.