Climate-Ready Landscapes

Low water use landscape with swale.
Photo from Water Smart Maintenance Manual

Climate-ready landscapes are designed with climate change in mind. By selecting low-water use plants, implementing rainwater harvesting, and following fire-wise principles, your yard will be better equipped to withstand drought, floods, and fires. We have developed resources to help you create a landscape that can thrive into the future.

Water Smart Plants

Water conservation is an essential consideration when selecting plants for Sonoma and Marin county landscapes. Plants that are adapted to our local climate require 70-90% less irrigation than turf grass and provide habitat for pollinators, insects, birds and wildlife. Below are some tools to help you select plants adapted to our region’s climate:

Water-Smart Plant Picker: Use the Plant Picker to search for plants adapted to California’s summer-dry climate.

water smart label logo

Shop for water smart plants: Look for the Water Smart Plant Label at select local nurseries.

Diospyros kaki. Japanese persimmon tree. Listed on Climate-Ready Trees list.

Choose climate forward trees: The UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County partnered with the City of Santa Rosa to identify trees that are likely to thrive in our changing climate over the next 30 to 50 years.

Landscape Design and Maintenance

Prepare your yard for the next drought, flood, or fire season. Be drought-ready by selecting climate-appropriate plants and irrigating efficiently. Prevent flooding by slowing, spreading, and sinking rainwater to recharge groundwater, and increase fire safety by maintaining defensible space around your home. Landscape design and proper maintenance are keys to a drought-tolerant, flood-proof, and fire-wise yard:

concept drawing of plan

Landscape Design Templates: The Partnership developed eight free, scalable, water-efficient, front-yard landscape design templates for you to modify depending on your site.

Water Smart Gardens Maintenance Manual

Water Smart Maintenance Manual: An instruction guide for your landscape. The Water Smart Maintenance Manual includes design and maintenance tips for low water use gardens, fire-wise landscapes, and rain gardens.

garden sense logo

Ask a Garden Sense consultant: Garden Sense is a program of the UC Master Gardeners of Sonoma County. Trained Master Gardeners provide free consultations for those who would like assistance with:

  • Converting your lawn to a low water use landscape
  • Switching from sprinklers to drip irrigation
  • Assessing irrigation system for leaks

qwel logo

Hire a QWEL Pro! The Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) program is an EPA WaterSense labeled professional certification in irrigation system audits. QWEL Pros have been trained in efficient irrigation principles and sustainable landscaping practices.

Choose Green Tools for a Green Landscape: Sonoma Clean Power’s Advanced Energy Center provides learning resources to make your home more energy efficient, including your landscape. Making the transition to green maintenance tools is another important consideration for a climate-ready landscape.

Efficient Irrigation and Water Reuse

Over or under watering can lead to plant stress which can lead to plant disease, especially in a drought. The best way to keep your plants healthy is to provide them with just the right amount of water they need. You can even store rainwater to water your plants or use your clothes washing machine instead of irrigating with potable water.

Hunter irrigation Controller

Irrigation Scheduling: Need a watering schedule? Use the Irrigation Scheduling Tool. The Irrigation Scheduling Tool is designed to help you create an irrigation schedule customized to your location by pulling data from local weather stations on a daily basis to give you an accurate measurement of how much water your plants need.

DIY Toolkit: Find and fix leaks with the DIY Toolkit. The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Home Energy and Water Saving Toolkit is stocked with supplies to help you identify leaks in your home and comes with free showerheads, faucet aerators, and more! The DIY Toolkit is available for free checkout at Sonoma County Libraries.

rainwater barrels

Rainwater Harvesting: Did you know that you can collect 600 gallons of water after just one inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square-foot roof? Store rainwater in a tank, barrel, or cistern so that you can use it once the rainy season ends. Check with your water provider for rebates.

Laundry to Landscape

Graywater: A laundry-to-landscape graywater system and is a great way to reduce potable water use by reusing laundry wash water in your landscape. Check with your water provider for rebates:


Check with your water provider for available rebates to help you create a climate-ready landscape:

Sheet mulching a lawn.
  • Convert your lawn to low water use plants
  • Upgrade your irrigation controller
  • Switch from spray irrigation to drip
  • Install a rainwater harvesting system
  • Laundry-to-Landscape graywater
  • And more!