Xeriscaping for sustainabilityXeriscaping (pronounced “Zera-scaping”) is a more sustainable alternative to traditional landscape practices which use exotic plants and standard green lawns in arid areas and contribute to excessive water use, photochemical air pollution, and ecological damage. Xeriscaping involves lower conversion of local habitat, and benefits biodiversity, providing a cultural anchor, while also supporting recreation.
Keywords: xeriscaping, landscaping, native species, exotic species
The term “xeriscaping” defines the process of making landscapes more water-efficient. This is achieved in the design phase as well as through proper planting, and good water management practices. The concept, first coined in Colorado in 1981, has been developed into seven principles:
- Suitable planning and design
- Practical lawn areas (using turf only when it provides functional benefits)
- Efficient irrigation
- Soil protection and improvements
- Appropriate plant species selection
- Maintenance to reduce water requirements
Regulation and incentives
The first site to pass a xeriscape regulation was Florida in 1991. California, Arizona, Nevada, and Toronto have since followed with various legislation and incentives for property owners to incorporate weather efficiency into their landscaping.
Water savings translates to less pressure on aquifers, and reduced soil pollution from irrigation. A study comparing conventional and water-efficient landscapes in Northern California found savings of 54% for water, 25% for labour, 61% for fertilizer, 44% for fuel, and 22% for herbicides. Other studies in dry regions, such the Mojave Desert, have demonstrated that xeriscaping reduces water use by up to 80%, and results in a 30% decrease in maintenance costs and labour. On the basis of these savings, research on xeriscaping as an investment found a potential return of investment within 4 years.
Apart from providing water and cost savings, xeriscaped environments also ensure that the greening of cities is ecologically sustainable, by promoting the planting of local species and thereby restoring indigenous environments (see also Adelaide, Auckland and Mata de Sesimbra). This is a vital part of the overall well-being of ecosystems and benefits citizens: not only promoting biodiversity but also forming a cultural anchor for urban biodiversity. Furthermore, a more sustainable urban greenspace thwarts the loss of native species through exotic species invasion, and provides better use of limited space.
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