Condo complex slashes water bills after removing grass

El Paseo Village HOA's new landscape features a palette of lush, low-water use plants and a new water-efficient irrigation system. Photos courtesy of Coachella Valley Water District.

Increasing water rates led a Palm Desert condominium complex to tear out 16,000 square feet of street-side grass and replace it with desert-friendly plants, a new irrigation system and lighting.

The change at the 30-unit El Paseo Village was “no easy task as it covered three perimeter streets: Lupine Lane, Shadow Mountain Drive and San Pablo Avenue,” says Tamara Sorensen, president of the complex’s HOA and spearhead of the project.

“I knew we needed to become a more responsible community. Our water usage had been designated as ‘wasteful’ for years.”

To gather ideas, she drove around the Valley looking for beautiful and sustainable desert gardens. Sorensen’s vision for the project was a lush Mediterranean garden with a contemporary desert palette of low-water use plants.

The HOA worked with a train of experts: Coachella Valley Water District Water Management Specialist Rene Ramirez, landscape architect Gary Hermanowski of Moeller’s Garden Center Palm Desert, and VIP Landscape, Palm Desert.

A stroll along the complex’s perimeter shows what she calls “symbiotic events of color and texture” created with rocks interspersed with drip-irrigated plants from CVWD’s list of desert-friendly plants.

Hermanowski designed the placement of plants that includes little Ollie olive, pencil bush, American agave, blue elf aloe, golden barrel cactus, natal plum, and Mexican bird of paradise. Many are shaded by the complex’s decades-old olive trees.

Comparing water bills for the first three months of 2017 to the same period in 2016 shows the complex saw a 2/3 reduction in water use.

Along with CVWD rebates, those savings “are hard dollars we can put into the coffers toward other improvements for our community, said Sorensen.

CVWD continues to offer rebates for converting lawn to desert-friendly landscaping. For information: www.cvwd.org/conservation.

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