Basic Principles of Water-Wise Landscaping

by | Jan 18, 2017 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Water Wise landscaping is an approach to landscaping that focuses on water conservation. Climate-appropriate plant choice and efficient irrigation are key factors. Others are grouping plants with similar water requirements together in different hydro zones, watering just enough to meet plant needs, and installing non-water consuming areas, such as paved or gravelled sections.


The use of local indigenous or other low water usage introduced plants is a priority. Being Water Wise does not necessarily imply only one particular landscape style. Rather, it is a concept of water conservation that may be applied to landscapes of any style, from formal to informal in layout, to contemporary or traditional in appearance.


A Water Wise landscape is simply one in which basic principles of water conservation have been applied right from the start – although any existing landscape can be altered to make it Water Wise. The best time to convert an existing landscape to one that is Water Wise is when it needs a revamp. If building alterations are to be carried out, this is also a good time to reassess the landscaping. Planning and design Planning involves identifying the client’s preferences, intended uses and goals for the landscape.These goals are then combined with the environmental features of the property to create a map.This ‘synthesis map’ is refined by applying both standard and Water Wise design principles to create an attractive landscape.


Planning to make the best use of site assets and limitations is important. Assets may include views, rocky outcrops, a boggy area suitable for wetland plantings, areas with sunlight or shade, as well as existing vegetation. Design principles include scale, balance, interest, harmony and continuity. Three additional design considerations that are important in Water Wise design are:

• Dividing the area into different hydro zones.

• Creating shaded areas to help preserve moisture in the soil.

• Creating windbreaks to prevent wind drying out the soil.

Implementing a plan may involve site grading, creating berms and swales to harvest rainwater, preparing and amending soil to make it more water-retentive, planning and installing an irrigation system, constructing no water usage hard landscaping surfaces, planting up high water usage, medium water usage and low water usage hydro zones, mulching and maintenance. Basic principles of Water Wise landscaping Site assessment and planning are vital A Water Wise landscape is cost efficient During construction of the Echo Edge apartment building in Port Elizabeth the vegetation on an adjacent steep slope suffered damage.The area was re-vegetated, and berms and swales were constructed to slow down and manage fast-flowing stormwater that would otherwise have flowed unrestricted into the Baakens Valley Nature Reserve, carrying with it valuable topsoil, and causing serious soil erosion to the valley walls. Landscaping: Ulterior Design. Planning to make the best use of site assets and limitations is important. At the Mount Grace Hotel in Gauteng, sloping ground permits water to be harvested in a dam. Landscaping: Servest Landscaping. (Pic: Courtesy of SALI) Eight rules for Water Wise design

• Plan and design to conserve municipal water and harvest free rainwater.

• Remove declared alien invader plants – they overconsume water and destroy habitats.

• Create practical turf areas of manageable sizes and shapes, and select appropriate grass types.

• Zone the landscape into different hydro zones and group plants according to their water usage. Make the low water usage zone as large as possible.Thereafter, determine how much and how often to water through the seasons.

• Use soil amendments such as compost, manure and water retentive polymers.

• Use mulches, especially in high and moderate watering zones.

• Irrigate efficiently with properly designed systems, and by applying the right amount of water at the right time.

• Maintain the landscape appropriately by mowing, pruning and fertilising properly.

Information Courtesy of Rand Water

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