Low-Impact Development/ Xeriscape: Shouldn’t they be a Prerequisite in the Southwest?

As a landscape architect and urban designer, xeriscape and low-impact development are really inherant in design of projects at all scales.  Xeriscape and Low-Impact Development are currently major buzz words as our culture moves through the sustainable practices.  LEED and the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) have brought a lot of sustainability to the forefront in the industry.

Even in the winter months, xeriscape still creates an interesting landscape with a variety of textures.

Xeriscape:  In the Southwest United States, which is the area of the country where I do the majority of my work, xeriscape is the smart and economical approach by landscape architects.  Xeriscape, according to dictionary.com, employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water.  It is the common sense approach for maintenance reasons for all residential applications in the Southwest.

Low water-use is crucial in the southwest because annual rainfall is low and our water resources are scarce.  Xeriscape is not water intensive and the most economical alternative in the landscape for maintenance reasons.  Contrary to the misconceptions by most people, it is not about brown landscapes or rockscapes.  Xeriscape includes many varieties of plant material that are very vibrant and color-intensive.  For more information, see my prior blog post about xeriscape titled:  Water-Wise Landscapes 

High Country Gardens is another very valuable resource for plant material in the Southwest.  High Country Gardens can be found on the internet at HighCountryGardens.com.

In Pueblo, in lieu of seperate water detention, we utilized porous pavers and a below-grade detention system below the parking lot.

Low-Impact Development (LID)Low-Impact Development, or LID, is a fairly recent term, or buzz word, that refers to minimizing the ecological impacts in developing land.  LID can refer to the use of xeric plant material, best management stormwater practices or a number of other development opportunities outside of the conventional development methods.  In my career, I have implemented a number of LID applications in projects.  There are many simple solutions to the problems with development that are not considered on projects, simply because of the accessibility and ease of repeating the methods that have been used for decades.  For example, the conventional method of parking islands is to raise the islands above grade.  This requires an irrigation system for the plantings in the islands.  One approach would be to consider the amount of stormwater runoff from the parking lot and utilize it for supplemental irrigation for the islands, using only gravity as a means for supplying stormwater.  This accomplishes supplemental irrigation for the plantings and limits the amount of stormwater runoff.  Limiting stormwater runoff minimizes the high cost and use of land for on-site detention/retention.  There are a number of other techniques for LID that really require consideration and thought rather than simply utilizing the conventional methods.

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