Landscape Retrofit: Redesigning Desert Landscapes

in HortScience
Authors:
Robert L. MorrisUniv. of Nevada Reno, Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas, NV 89146-3160

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Angela O'Callaghan*Univ. of Nevada Reno, Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas, NV 89146-3160

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The Las Vegas Valley receives most of its water from the Colorado River due to a static federal water allocation the remainder from pumping groundwater. The increased water demand due to the population rise in the Las Vegas Valley is expected to overtake its current water allocation in the next few years. Over 60% of the potable water used in the Las Vegas valley is used to irrigate urban landscapes. Poorly designed desert landscapes can ultimately use more water than traditional landscapes and increase residential energy costs. Most of the desert landscaping currently installed by homeowners either ignores principles that conserve water or conserve energy. The program was designed to be used with homeowner associations and commercial landscapers. The residential homeowner proved to be the most responsive to this type of program. The overall goal of this program is to teach residents how to convert a high water use landscape to lower water use and reduce dependence on potable water for irrigation and still maintain high quality landscapes. In 1995, a 7-week, hands-on, landscape design curriculum was developed and used to teach homeowners how to create desert landscape designs that conserve water and energy and compared its water use to traditional, turfgrass landscapes. Participants leave the course with a finished design of their making with information on how to install the landscape themselves or how to hire a professional to do the installation. In 1996-97 a Master Gardener was taught and mentored how to teach the class in Las Vegas using the existing curriculum. Since 1995, over 500 residents have been trained and water use savings documented by the existing water purveyors. This program is self-funded through class fees.

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