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Pilot project to pay developers to install low-water landscaping

The Valdemosa development in Temecula, Calif., by KB Home has just opened up its model homes with a program that could save between 50 and 75 percent each year on irrigation.

In what could be the future of residential development in the Southwest, Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris, Calif., has developed a pilot program to pay developers 80 cents per square foot of low-water landscaping. The Valdemosa development in Temecula, Calif., by KB Home has just opened up its model homes with such landscaping. Built on 92 acres, this development follows California landscape ordinance 325. It has planned on combined improvements to save 50 percent of water usage through drought-tolerant plants and boost irrigation efficiency to 75 percent. The irrigation system is set up for different hydrozones. Turf will be irrigated through stream rotators, shrubs with a drip irrigation system, with the homes needing a weather-based irrigation controller.

Bureau of Reclamation and Metropolitan Water District (which serves most of Southern California) donated the primary funds for this pilot program. Both groups collaborated with the Building Industry Association Southern California chapter to develop programs in Riverside County covering 260 homes in Temecula, Sun City and French Valley.

"Not everyone has tried this program before," told California Friendly Model Home Program research specialist Carlos Michelon to LASN. "We're trying to get the landscaping and irrigation in before the houses are built. We've got unprecedented growth in the area with between 1,000 and 1,400 new homes being built each month."

New Dudek is the landscape architecture firm consulting on the project. They're looking at the possibility of 30 acre/feet per year of water being saved among the 260 homes, said Michelon. The program kicked off in January this year and after three years researchers will have some final figures on the water savings.

"The landscape architects have been essential to this program," said KB Home's Andrea DeLeon. "Builders have committed to participate in this project. The water agency has interfaced with the landscape architect to meet water requirements of the program. Upon completion we can submit for final plan check to the water agency. We want to reduce by half the amount of water used for the traditional residential landscape."

DeLeon said the landscape architect has more than 1,200 native and Mediterranean plants to choose from the California Friendly Plant Palette. The keys to the program include reducing runoff problems, improve inefficient irrigation and cut down on landscape maintenance. "We can do all this while enhancing the beauty of the landscape area," added DeLeon. "It allows for a rich landscape palette of colors for an attractive landscape design."

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June 18, 2019, 9:01 pm PDT

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