Winter Offers Water Savings, Conservation Opportunities

By on November 22, 2019

By Philip Burum

To most Southern Californians, saving money during the winter months means shopping for the best holiday bargains. However, for homeowners, the beginning of the holiday season offers a terrific opportunity to rein in costs by making some environmentally friendly changes that scale down domestic water use.

For 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a winter relatively free of the conditions brought by El Niño (a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures) or La Niña (a cooling of the ocean surface, or below-average sea surface temperatures) with no immediate return to drought conditions. In short, we should be able to look to a relatively normal winter weather-wise.

Next to balanced representation in Sacramento, water is Southern California’s most scarce and precious resource. It isn’t clear what can be done about Sacramento today but now is the time to reassess your water use to accommodate the changing seasons. For homeowners, landscaping to conserve water can be one of the best and most cost-efficient choices a homeowner can make to beautify, insulate and protect the home; enhance its ‘curb appeal’ and save money by reducing energy and water costs.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), homeowners can reduce energy bills by up to $250 annually with innovative new approaches such as replacing traditional lawns with water–saving drought-tolerant plants, succulents and desert landscapes known as Xeriscaping.  Xeriscaping requires only natural precipitation to meet your landscape’s watering needs and drastically reduces water usage.

A good start to preparing your home for the winter months and spring landscaping season is to visit your local water provider’s website and see all they have to offer. Then visit, a website of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the family of Southern California water agencies. The website offers great tips on how to save money and water by using irrigation systems more efficiently utilizing a Watering Calculator that creates a customized watering schedule to manage an automatic timer; or a Watering Index which is a scientifically-based figure that will guide a watering schedule according to changes in the weather.

Today, new home buyers in the Inland Empire benefit from landscaping design by extremely sophisticated landscaping professionals employed by today’s new homebuilder. Modern California standards for new construction require utilizing native (those that grow naturally in our area) or California-friendly plants, trees and shrubs to reduce water consumption. However, all homeowners can enhance existing landscaping by consulting their local nursery or home & garden centers for suggestions on the best types of trees and shrubs that will thrive in their specific environment. Because many communities encourage the planting of certain types of native species, local nurseries are generally very knowledgeable on the subject.

Using drought-tolerant plants will provide variety to landscapes as will keeping flowers and vegetation with similar water needs in or near the same beds for maximum conservation. Landscaping can add further savings by insulating and protecting homes from the elements, which is particularly important this time of year. Planting deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves during the winter) in front of windows that receive significant amounts of sunlight will block solar heat in the summer while letting it in during the winter when it is needed most. Depending on the species, a six- to eight -foot deciduous tree will begin shading windows the first year and roofs within five to 10 years. Evergreens or shrubs can also be used to limit the sunlight entering through windows and provide excellent windbreaks along with reducing the effect of our unique Santa Ana winds.

Cooling other public areas such as patios can also offer great opportunities to reduce overall energy costs. Hedges, trellises or large bushes and shrubs offer significant amounts of shade to help cool these areas. Remember to plant all trees and shrubs a safe distance from the house to prevent spiders, ants or termites from beating a path to your home.

For more information on local representation in Sacramento, contact your local Assembly or State Senate office. For further reading on home improvements that will beautify and enhance the value of your home, please visit our website at on the web.

Phillip B. Burum is Vice President-Land at D.R. Horton and Board President for the Building Industry Association (BIA) Baldy View Chapter.