Sustainable Home

A sustainable home has water efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances on the inside. It also includes water efficient landscaping and sprinklers on the outside. Scroll down to learn more.

Saving Starts With Good Habits

It takes a little effort to start a good habit, but it won’t be long before you do the right thing without even thinking about it.

How to Save 2.5 Gallons per Minute

(That’s the flow rate of most faucets)

Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.

Cool a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running water until it cools.

Scrape dirty dishes instead of rinsing them.

Turn off the water while shaving.

Don’t thaw frozen foods with running water.

Don’t leave the water running when rinsing washed dishes.

Take a shorter shower.

Fill the sink to wash produce, instead of using running water.

Save Water Every Time . . .

Save up to 5 gallons per flush every time you don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket.

Save up to 4.5 gallons each time you don’t use the dishwasher — only wash full loads.

Save up to 50 gallons every time you don’t do a load of laundry — only wash full loads.

Good Plumbing Fixtures are Essential

If you have old plumbing fixtures in your home, replacing them with new, WaterSense labeled fixtures could save a lot of water.  WaterSense is a partnership between manufacturers and the Environmental Protection Agency to improve water efficiency. Look for this label when shopping for plumbing fixtures and look below to see how much more efficient the new fixtures are. Look for available rebates, too.


GPF = Gallons per Flush

1.28 Gallons per Flush/ 2011
1.6 / 1992
5.0 / 1975


GPM = Gallons per Minute

2.0 Gallons per Minute / 2011
2.5 / 2009
3.5 / 1975


GPM = Gallons per Minute

1.5 Gallons per Minute / 2011
2.2 / 2009
2.5 / 1975

The Quick Fix for Faucets

Buy aerators with a flow rate of just 1.5 or 2.0 gallons per minute at your local hardware store. Then unscrew the tip of each of your faucets, being careful not to scratch the chrome, and replace the old aerators with the new ones. It’s easy to do and you’ll save water by the minute. 


Good Appliances are a Good Investment

Energy Star is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to make appliances and other products energy efficient. Appliances that have an Energy Star label are also the most water efficient products on the market. Look below at how water efficiency has improved over the years. Look for available rebates, too.


GPC = Gallons per Cycle

4.25 Gallons per Cycle / 2012
5.8 / 2009
16 / 1994

Clothes Washer

GPCF = Gallons per Cubic Foot*

6.0 Gallons per Cubic Foot of Capacity / 2011
8.5 / 2009
15 / 1992

* Most clothes washers have 3-4 cubic feet of capacity.


Sustainable Landscape

Water Saving Ideas

The best approach to a sustainable landscape is to consider it gardening, not yardwork. Think of your garden as an extension of your living space. Here in San Diego you can enjoy an indoor-outdoor lifestyle year-round. Jot down a wish list of what you would like to have in your garden and you might find that you no longer have room for a big lawn.

Citrus and avocado trees, most vegetables, and Mediterranean and California native plants all use less water than a traditional lawn of cool season turf. And your new front porch and backyard dining area won’t need any water.

Live Better

Create a place to drink coffee in the morning and have friends over in the evening — under or next to a shade tree. You don’t need a deck, just gravel, or make some concrete pavers.

Eat Better

Grow organic vegetables in raised garden beds. Have your own little orchard. Grow a kiwi vine on the back fence.

Save the Bees

Plants native to California are home, sweet home for bees. Bee populations are dwindling and they need new habitat. (And we need bees!)

Meet Your Neighbors

Create a front porch where you can sit and read the mail and you’ll end up making new friends. Gravel or bark and a couple of chairs is all you need.

Reduce Water Pollution

Create a 3-foot wide, 6-inch high berm with plants between lawn and hardscape to prevent runoff from rain and sprinklers.

Create Shade

Shade trees make a garden comfortable, raise property values and reduce irrigation costs.

Sustainable and Beautiful

There is an endless variety of plants that thrive in San Diego’s Mediterranean climate with less water than a lawn needs. We describe how much water these plants use as a percentage of how much water a healthy lawn of cool season turf uses. Then we group them in three categories: moderate water use, low water use and very low water use.

30% Savings

Moderate Water Use Plants
These plants use 30% less water than cool season turf 

50% Savings

Low Water Use Plants
These plants use 50% less water than cool season turf  

70% Savings

Very Low Water Use Plants
These plants use 70% less water than cool season turf 

Moderate Water Use Plants

You can reduce your water by 30 percent wherever you replace cool season turf with moderate water use plants. These are just a few of the hundreds of plants available.

Low Water Use Plants

You can reduce your water use by 50 percent wherever you replace cool season turf with moderate water use plants. There are many more to choose from than what we have here.

Very Low Water Use Plants

You can reduce your water use by 70 percent wherever you replace cool season turf with moderate water use plants, and these are just a few of the plants in this category.

The Key to Saving Water

The key to saving water is to group plants together in your landscape based on how much water they use.


When you irrigate high, medium and low water use plants with the same sprinkler, you overwater or underwater or both. When you group plants together that need the same amount of water, you can give them just the right amount — and that’s efficient. Each group of plants is called a hydrozone.

How to Create Hydrozones

After you create the layout of your new landscape design, decide where plants will go. Then select plants that need the same amount of water for each location. If you want to keep your current irrigation system, transform your landscape into hydrozones.

Learn How to Save Water Every Time Your Sprinklers Run

It’s a Big Project, With Big Rewards

A smaller water bill might be the thing that gets you started, but less maintenance feels good, too. And there’s a good chance that talking with neighbors on the front porch will become a new favorite thing.

Video Transcript: Abbie Flanagan and Brigitte Patterson

Hi, I’m Brigitte Patterson and I’m Abbie Flanagan and we’re from Riverside, California. And this is our drought tolerant garden. We’ve lived here in this house for going on 15 years and we used to have a lawn. Well, if you could call it a lawn. What would you call it? Green weeds. Green weeds with a broken sidewalk and we just really got tired of watering the weeds so we decided we’d just start all over and do something drought tolerant, to save some water.
Our local Riverside water district gave us a rebate for taking out the sprinklers and for putting in the drought tolerant plants and the drip irrigation.
Paradise nursery came with the plants and gave us some suggestions and we love it, it’s great. I prefer this over lawn. I enjoy gardening and this is much more hands-on and you can sculpt it. I like it where I can just space it out more. I don’t want it to get too bushy. I want people to be able to see the individual plants.
I can come out here just weekly and think I’m working and it’s not really work. I like doing it, so it’s nice. It’s different. A lot of neighbors walk by and we get many compliments. Many of our neighbors have gardeners that come once a week and they pay a fee for their gardener.I don’t even know how much, but people ask, what did you do with your yard, and they want to do it, too. I enjoy just coming out here Sunday morning reading the papers. It’s fresh, there’s not car sounds, it’s quiet and compared to a lawn, I don’t know. There’s hummingbirds that come in and, unfortunately, a lot of squirrels too. We would never sit on the porch before we had it. We wouldn’t sit and watch our weeds grow —  just wasn’t interesting.

Explore all of the resources we have — gardens, shows, workshops and reading — to help you install your own water efficient landscape.


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