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Extension Education Highlight: Waterwise landscaping

Design 4 Every Drop logo - A waterwise landscape design approach for the Intermountain West.
USU Extension

Sariah Israelsen: This is Utah Public Radio. I'm Sariah Israelsen. Thanks for joining us for USU Extension Educational Highlight. I'm here with Extension Specialist Jake Powell and Extension Associate Professor Rowe Zwahlen to talk about the upcoming Design 4 Every Drop workshop USU Extension is hosting. Welcome, guys!

All right to start off Rowe, what exactly is this workshop about?

Rowe Zwahlen: Our goal is to help people really create a waterwise landscape. The name of the course is Design 4 Every Drop, we'll be working on landscape design, that that is incorporating waterwise techniques and strategies.

So, we've got a lot of tips and tricks that Extension has put out over the many, many years about how to save water in your landscape. But we what we've found is that sometimes that's hard to work together into a whole system and a whole landscape worth of ideas that really work together.

So that's the goal of this workshop. By the end, you'll have a design for your landscape that will be functional, save water and hopefully be attractive and useful as well.

Sariah Israelsen: How long is this workshop going to be?

Rowe Zwahlen: Well, it's a little bit of a hybrid. So, what we're doing is the in-person section will be a Friday evening and all-day Saturday, so about 10 hours over the course of two days.

But we've also incorporated beforehand, an online, self-paced workbook and an online course that people can go through so that when they come to meet us, they will have already worked through measuring out their yard, doing a site inventory, what they have on hand already, marking down important things, things they want to keep.

The most important thing is having a discussion about what their goals are for the future. And especially for couples. You need to have that conversation together and make sure that your visions and ideas really match up.

And so hopefully all that hard work will be done. And we can get into really designing once they come in person.

Sariah Israelsen: So right now, a big topic is the water that we have here in Utah and how it's scarce right now.

So, Jake, what should people expect for this next spring in terms of the water supply that they have? Is it going to be better because of the snowfall? Or is it going to be kind of the same?

Jake Powell: That's a great question. I think all estimates point to a better spring than we've had the last few years, which is exciting. However, I don't think as you look further in the future that this this kind of spring will be our normal.

And with that said, the explosive growth in the state matched with our current water consumption habits really points to the need for conservation across all different sectors. And what we're really trying to help people realize you don't have to have one or the other.

There's sort of a false dichotomy that to have a water-wise landscape, you have to sacrifice something. And really what we're asking them to sacrifice is a little bit of time in order to gain a landscape they're hopefully more excited about that also is more in line with the ecological constraints that we live in.

We do live in a desert, but we tend to build landscapes that don't reflect that reality.

Sariah Israelsen: So aside from this workshop, is there anything else that people can do to prepare for this next spring?

Jake Powell: I think people, if they're not interested in more of a strategic design approach, [should] look at some of those strategies like their irrigation water, looking for leaks.

I think there's a lot of efforts that can be done to keep water in the soil after we get it. So covering bare soil with mulch or organic compost.

Also looking at adjusting the way that water is delivered. If we're spraying, maybe converting to a drip system is one opportunity.

Another missed opportunity in a lot of Utah landscapes is the opportunity to capture the water that we already have. So, precipitation, what comes off of our roof, where it goes. We see a lot of water just run down hardscapes and into the gutter.

And then the next morning we're irrigating again with culinary water because the landscape didn't get the drink that it needed. So, there's a lot of opportunities to slow water down, let it sink in and then store it in the soil for the plants to get a hold of a little bit later.

Sariah Israelsen: Thank you both for being here. The information for the workshop can be found at