The plant in the photo above - Verbena bonariensis - is a tough work horse in the flower garden - beautiful, colorful and very drought tolerant. This is exactly what we need here in Northern California if we want to have beautiful gardens while saving water at the same time.
This year saving water is more important and urgent than ever. We are in an exceptional drought - "exceptional" being the most severe level of drought. Our last drought ended a couple years back with record rain falls, one "atmospheric river" chasing another. That drought "only" was labled as "severe". But now we are in the "exceptional" stage and I'm wondering why our county supervisors and city council members aren't demanding mandatory restrictions. It's not like this situation is going to change to the better anytime soon since there won't be any significant rainfall before November (if even then).
We get most of our rainfall in the winter. Our 30-year annual average is 34 inches; this year, however, we only received 12.86 inches which is 39% of the average. Our main reservoir, Lake Sonoma, is at 56.5% of capacity.
For now, residents are asked to restrict their water use voluntarily by 20%. I'm pretty sure with summer not even having started, those restrictios will eventually become mandatory.
Our household uses 2000 gallons of water on average in a month. In the summer it can reach 3000 gallons and very seldom even 4000. With these numbers we are far below the average of a "normal" household and it's getting harder and harder to save additional water since we are already pretty water savvy.
These guys are my best friends when it comes to saving water:
We use flexitubs everywhere in the garden, but their main purpose is catching the water in the shower while it heats up (of course we have low water fixtures).
Outside I have a water barrel where I store any water that I can catch.
Whenever my watering cans are empty I refill them from the barrel. And here you can see how serious I am about saving water (I guess that's the German in me!) - the barrel is leaking at the tube when I open the valve, so I put a bowl beneath it where I catch that water. Not a drop gets unused!
In the kitchen sink I have another bowl where I catch any water - when I wash veggies or the water after I have boiled eggs. Sometimes I even drain the pasta water in here and water a few plants with that - and those plants seem to like the starchy water.
So what about the garden? you might ask. First, I hand water my garden. I have a couple long hoses that I put to work about once a week, twice if it is very hot. Only the vegetables are watered more often than that - but I only have one raised bed with tomatoes, zucchini and some basils. I cut back a lot this year.
With a very few exceptions my garden is filled with drought tolerant plants. I use California natives a lot, but also plants that are native to Australia and the Cape region of South Africa. I eventually will introduce more succulents to the garden.
A drought tolerant garden does not have to be boring, but can be very colorful.
From left to right: Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy), Sphaeralcea incana (Soft globemallow) and Achillea 'Moonshine' (Yarrow)
We don't have a graywater system (even though that probably would be a great idea). If you have any more ideas how to save water, please let us know in the comments.