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Texas AgriLife Extension Service Texas Water Development Board Texas Nursery and Landscape Association Texas AgriLife Extension Service Texas AgriLife Extension Service
A supplement to the Best Management Practices Manual produced by the Texas Water Conservation Task Force.

Landscape Planning and Design

Landscape planning and design is essential to water use efficiency and is a common practice in new commercial and in some new residential development. Good design principles make use of existing contours, soil properties and plant materials to reduce the use of supplemental irrigation and to control stormwater runoff. Good landscape design incorporates the use of hardscape (sidewalks, porches, patios, and decorative borders) with the impacts on water use in mind. The proper approach can marry the goals of efficient water use with water quality. Further, the use of rainwater catchment can replace the use of potable water in irrigation and in some cases include air conditioning condensate in a site's water budget as on alternative source of water.

Successful landscape water conservation practices in Texas have included programmatic approaches such as educational brochures and workshops, landscape conversion incentive programs, and ordinance approaches including – landscape ordinances requiring submission of a landscape design with specific provisions for trees, irrigation systems, and stormwater interception.

The Texas statewide licensed irrigator requirements assist in the implementation of good irrigation system design. However as of the writing of the 1st edition of the Urban Landscape Guide there is no statewide enforcement and compliance mechanism. Local compliance activities are needed to ensure that licensed irrigators are used in irrigation system design. This can be accomplished through the building permit and inspection process when desired.
Landscape design can take advantage of terrain, soil types, shade and water sources to get the most out of water efficiency.

  • Plants with similar water needs should be grouped together.
  • "Thirsty" plants (those with high water requirements) should be placed at the bottom of slopes, in the shade, and be moved to alternative sources of water like rainwater systems catchment or graywater systems.
  • Use terraces or barriers to minimize runoff.
  • Plant ground covers and low water use turfs on slopes.
  • Use pervious hardscape or mulch materials to minimize runoff, and ensure that rainfall replenishes the soil water reservoir
  • Place the most drought tolerant plants in southern or western facing portions of the landscape which tend to be hottest, and driest.2

"Landscape planning and design is essential to water use efficiency..."

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2 Fundamentals of Xeriscaping and Water-Wise Landscape, WD-WSEB-26-4 2001, http://www.des.state.nh.us/factsheets/ws/ws-26-4.htm