5 Pro Tips for a Drought-Friendly HOA


Alright, we’ve heard the news. Maybe the worst drought in California history. What’s missing from the headlines? What to do about it.

Well, look no further. Here are 5 pro tips from a real pro. Chris Files, Jensen Landscape Water Management Expert, gives you the low down on downsizing water consumption for your Homeowners Association. The real surprise? It’s easy. Mostly, these are things we should all be doing already.



1. Reduce Waste


The first step to water-conscious landscaping is fairly straightforward: become conscious of your water. Large reduction in your water usage each month can come from simply checking for leaks and not watering when it isn’t needed.

There are a couple key steps to effective leak detection. First, Chris says to keep your eye out for areas where there is run-off or a washout in the landscape. This could signal a leak, a broken sprinkler head, or a broken lateral pipe. Next, check your irrigation leak detector when all the other water is shut down. If the small triangle or low flow dial is moving, then there is a leak in the system.

If you are noticing areas of washout but cannot find a leak, try adjusting your irrigation heads to keep overspray from hardscapes like sidewalks and roadways. This will prevent wasted water from flowing across concrete and directly into storm drains.

Plant 51 Image Jensen Blog

Some mulchy landscaping from Jensen’s work on the Plant 51 Apartments in San Jose, CA.

Chris offers this finely-tuned adjustment: If you know you are watering to your plant requirements, but still see run-off, then you may be watering too intensely over too short of a period. He recommends checking your soil moisture, then REDUCING the duration of your run times while INCREASING the number of times the zone runs. This will allow the soil time to absorb the H2O input and keep plants healthy with less waste.

Finally, beware of ET! (Pardon the bad humor. This tip has nothing to do with aliens.)

A decidedly earthly phenomenon, Evapotranspiration (ET) is the gradual process of water loss through plant matter and through evaporation. Effective ET management will reduce waste long-term. Try laying down a thin and consistent layer of mulch to hold in moisture, and be judicious with it. A common mistake is to build up too much mulch around the crowns of plants and that often causes a host of problems like root rot and insect infestation.



2. Make A Plan



Are you watering this?


Develop a water budget based on your specific landscape. Chris offers this list of important factors to measure: “the square footage of landscape being irrigated, what type of landscape is being watered, what form of irrigation is being used, soil type, slope of the area being watered and other environmental conditions like shade, wind, and the reflective heat off asphalt or glass.”

These criteria can help you make informed decisions about your actual water needs. On a basic level, being aware of your landscape specifics will help you to plan parameters accordingly.


Or this?

Have a conversation about waste with your landscape maintenance professional. How often are your irrigation schedules being changed? Chris recommends schedules be changed at least on a monthly basis to accommodate environmental conditions.“Is the controller turned off or does the irrigation system have a rain sensor to shut the system down when there is sufficient rainfall?” asks Mr. Files.

Even seemingly small adjustments pay off in the long run. Landscaping specialists often describe water in gallons per minute, meaning even reducing your normal watering schedule by a couple of minutes can easily save gallons of water.



3. Live within your Budget


Once you’ve set your budget, make sure you update your systems and your schedule. Then, maintenance of the decisions you’ve made is key. Chris recommends checking back in with your system every month. He says it is important to compare actual use with your expected budget, then, make adjustments based on real data.

When working on a site, Chris pays very special attention to the first months of establishing his budget. In addition to checking the system for proper functioning, he will, “monitor the landscape and make adjustments to schedules based on moisture content (soil probe) of soil.” He says it “can take about 3 months to dial schedules in,” due to the fine tuning he applies to each project.



4. Go Local


Your choice of plant type can make or break your water management plan. California plants have the advantage of being native and uniquely suited to this soil and climate.

Stadium Image Jensen Blog

Green Roof project with drought-resistant plants


If you are looking for variety, plants native to the Mediterranean also have been proven to do very well in the California climate. When working with landscape professionals, make sure they have certified horticulturalists on staff to get you the most resilient and beautiful local plants. Check out this post for more info and ideas on drought resistant landscaping.



5. Stick With It


As with any important, but simple, plan – the only key is consistency. Maintain your budget and your watering schedule. Make sure to check regularly for leaks and runoff. There are some important pieces of equipment that can help make the process a real success. Installing a rain-sensor system, getting a professional drip system, or installing water reclamation technology can make or break your water management long term.


De Silva Island Image Jensen Blog

At De Silva Island in Mill Valley, Jensen’s work reflects the natural beauty of Bay Area native plant life.


Interested in implementing these Pro Tips and want a professional to do the work? Request a proposal from Jensen Corporation’s award-winning team and receive the very best of California Water Management services.


Written by Erik Johnson. Contact: [email protected]