WaterSmart Landscape Contest “Best in District” Winner Announced
Water Use Decreased by Approximately 33 Percent
La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell have been designated the title of “Best in District” in Otay’s 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The annual competition rewards residential customers from 13 participating San Diego county agencies for their water-efficient landscapes, based on overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, and efficient irrigation and maintenance.
After participating in the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program – presented by the San Diego County Water Authority and Otay – and drawing inspiration from the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, the Cissells decided to turn their 2,500 square feet of irrigated grass into their own conservation garden, decreasing their water use by an average of roughly 33 percent.
They started from scratch, which began with removing the sod. They then layered cardboard, compost, and mulch, which now keeps the soil moist. As part of the design, they incorporated a recycling component and creative elements including a hand-built waterfall made from an old truck ladder rack and other solid materials that would otherwise serve no purpose. Water from a swale feeds the waterfall, then travels through microtubes up a faux bonsai tree — made of concrete and unused materials – to irrigate the flower baskets that rest at the end of each tree branch. Large tree roots that once ran through their yard between underground piping, decorate other areas of their yard.
For efficient irrigation, the Cissells installed drip tubing along the top of the ground and corrugated drain piping below. The piping is used for excess water to irrigate the slopes surrounding the home.
To assure that their drip system would continue to work properly, they came up with a system using a birdbath made from an old sink. When their drip system turns on, it feeds the birdbath. The water flows up into the sink and into the overflow hole and back down to the trees. No water is wasted, and mosquito larvae is prevented. If the birdbath is dry, it means that the drip system is not working properly.
To maximize their viewing area, the Cissells strategically placed curved walking paths throughout their yard. They are made of decomposed granite delineated by stones set in concrete to ensure stability and longevity.
“After we made the pathway, we thought we’d use brick or pavers, but the Water Authority suggested to use absorbent materials and that’s when we decided to use decomposed granite and embed stones in concrete as a pathway so that there would be a permanent border,” said Bob. “That’s when we felt good about the project and that it was going to go somewhere.”
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The Cissells’ own “Stonehenge” or large tree roots topped with stones (pictured on the left) serve as a reminder of what was once the nature beneath them. Other tree roots were bent to create an even curve to use as part of the arbor (pictured on the right). Click on the images to enlarge.
The paths are also surrounded by vegetation and water-wise plants such as succulents, honeysuckle, pincushion flowers, manzanita, and others. The Cissells say they believe these efforts have led them to a reduction of 25 to 30 percent in their water bill.
“The coolest thing is that it was a 100 percent makeover from irrigated lawn that took a pathetic amount of water to keep it green, and it wasn’t even green,” said Shan. “It’s the design, the technical, the labor, the creativity, and the focus on not a single drop of water being wasted that we took seriously.”
The District will recognize the Cissells at its Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, July 3 at 3:30 p.m. where they will receive a certificate of recognition, $250 nursery gift card, yard sign, and goodie bag.