Landscape water efficiency

Did you know that 55 per cent of our total annual water use is used for landscaping irrigation (in the  average Kelowna home)?  This means that during the summer, we use on average, about 72 million litres of water for our lawns and gardens!

We can lower this number by designing our yards and gardens with water conservation in mind.  Chose climate appropriate plant material, appropriate and sufficient growing medium, and install an efficient irrigation system.

The foundation of a Water Smart landscape is your soil or growing medium.  Not all soils are ideal for water retention and most will require some amending.  Top-dressing your lawn and putting mulch in gardens will help the soil retain moisture and products like OgoGrow and GlenGrow are ideal for this purpose. 

The next step is to carefully select plant material.  More people are choosing plants that are native to the area and have adapted to local conditions.  Check out the plant database at and find a local nursery that carries plant material suited to our semi arid (dry) climate.

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

Key Guidelines for Landscape Design

Smart landscape design
  • Choose climate appropriate plant material and consider the purpose for the plants you select.  Plants can provide seasonal colour, attract butterflies, or offer shade once established, for instance.  Consider their purpose before you purchase.
  • Group plants according to their water needs; high, medium, low and no irrigation required
  • Incorporate existing native vegetation where possible, use pervious options for paving, patios or decks, install organic mulch
  • Minimize mown turf areas as these can be high water use areas.  Formal turf is best suited to active use areas and there are low water use turf options available.
  • 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.

For more information on landscaping to save water, see the Landscape & Irrigation Guide. To learn more about satisfying your soil with compost, visit Okanagan Compost.


Xeriscaping is a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semi-arid climates that utilizes water conserving techniques. Adopting xeriscape principles in landscape planning and planting offers many benefits including using less water and saving money. 

Xeriscape landscapes will use 30 to 100 per cent less water than traditionally styled landscapes and result in landscapes that are more resilient to drought and to the pressures of pests and disease. Plants growing in their ideal conditions thrive with less water, less maintenance and there is no need for pesticides or chemical fertilizers. 

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association (OXA) is an excellent place to learn about this landscaping style. To learn more about the colourful range of plants which are adapted to growing in the near-desert natural conditions of the Okanagan Valley, browse through OXA's extensive plant database at The database includes colour photos of hundreds of xeriscape plants suitable for our climate and can be searched by flower colour, blooming time, size, light requirements and more. 

In 2010, the Okanagan Xeriscape Association created a demonstration garden, the unH2O Xeriscape Garden, in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre at 4075 Gordon Drive. Visit its six theme gardens in any season during the year to get inspiration for using xeriscape plants in your own landscape.