Landscaping - Residential & professional

The largest use of potable water in Arizona is for landscaping and as much as 70 percent of residential water use is outdoors. Millions of gallons are used annually to irrigate non-residential landscapes such as parks, golf courses, sport fields and resorts. Water use in all landscapes can be significantly reduced by using efficient and regionally-appropriate designs, plant selection, and irrigation practices. Whether you live or work in the deserts, plateaus or mountains of Arizona, the following resources will be useful in planning, installing and maintaining beautiful, water-efficient landscapes.


LOW WATER USE Plants & Landscapes

Below you will find low-water-use plant lists for the different regions of Arizona, as well as a wide range of helpful information for creating and maintaining Arizona friendly landscapes.


xeroscaping principles.

ADWR Active Management Areas Low Water Use & Drought Tolerant Plant Lists: 

 ADWR Low Water Use & Drought Tolerant Plants Lists were developed by plant experts to regulate groundwater used for landscaping in public medians and rights-of-way irrigated by groundwater in Arizona’s five Active Management Areas (AMAs), as described in the AMA Management Plans.

Landscape Resources


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  • Xeriscape: Landscaping with Style in the Sonoran Desert is an illustrated guide that covers xeriscape principles, landscape planning and design, installation, maintenance, resources and photos that provide inspiration and design ideas. Xeriscape is a landscaping method that employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water. For an interactive online version of the guide, please visit

  • USDA Plant Database provides standardized information about plants including characteristics, images, native distribution and other resources

  • The Arizona Native Plant Society has a variety of brochures that provide photos and information about plants that are native to Arizona desert regions or are non-native but low water users. The brochures include information about planting, landscaping tips, water use and maintenance

  • Flagstaff Arboretum Resources Page provides links to regionally-appropriate, high-elevation plant lists. Arboretum resources include photos and information on growing conditions, transplanting or planting from seed, and mail-order sources.

  • Cochise County Water Wise Program - learn tips for saving water both indoors and outdoors. Workshops are held locally for domestic well owners, native plant enthusiasts, and for those curious about rainwater harvesting.

  • Yavapai County Small Acreage Program features workshops for private well owners, and educational materials regarding well water testing and water conservation.

  • Good Reasons to Take Out Your Grass - this guide offers practical advice and tips for removing a lawn so that low-water use plants can be planted, or to make room for new features such as patios and planters. Developed by the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA).

Irrigation and Water Harvesting

This section provides publications and guidance manuals that enable residents and professional landscapers to save water outdoors by increasing irrigation efficiency as well as by harvesting rain and gray water.


Landscape Watering by the Numbers
  • Landscape Watering by the Numbers shows how to calculate the water plants and lawns need, how much water irrigation provides, and how to develop a seasonal watering schedule.

    Developed by the Cities of Mesa and Scottsdale for the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), 2005.

  • How Often and How Long to Water - Determining a Plant's Water Needs explains how to determine a plant's water needs. Developed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. 

  • Guidelines for Landscape Drip Irrigation Systems covers drip irrigation in detail, including design, materials, installation, maintenance, operation and repair. It includes estimated water requirements for plants in Phoenix and Tucson, watering frequencies, and a simplified approach for determining landscape watering schedules. Developed by the Arizona Landscape Irrigation Guidelines Committee with funding from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, 1999. 

  • Desert Lawn Care Guide offers practical advice and tips for maintaining a healthy and water-efficient lawn. Developed by the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA)

  • Please see the Technologies page for information on irrigation technologies.


Rainwater Harvesting: Harvesting rainwater reduces the use of drinking water for landscape irrigation. It is also an effective water conservation tool and proves more beneficial when coupled with the use of native, low water-use and desert-adapted plants. Additionally, rainwater is available free of charge and puts no added strain on the municipal supply or private wells.

Harvesting Rainwater

Gray Water Harvesting: Gray water is defined as wastewater, collected separately from sewage flow that originates from a clothes washer, bathtub, shower or sink, but not from a kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet. In general, gray water is an excellent source of water for household gardening, composting, and landscape irrigation. Gray water must be used so that it does not run off your own property.

  • Watershed Management Group develops community-based solutions to ensure the long-term prosperity of people and health of the environment with a focus on improving desert ecosystems. Among many other useful publications on their website regarding rainwater and gray water harvesting, the Field Guide for Rain Garden Care provides various strategies for creating backyard, commercial, and neighborhood rain gardens.

  • Tucson Water's List of Resources includes rebate programs, licensed contractors, demonstration sites and material suppliers.

  • Harvesting Rainwater for Landscape Use provides information about planning and installing residential water harvesting systems. It includes information on calculating plant-water use requirements and historic rainfall for many Arizona cities and towns. Developed by the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension and ADWR, 2006.

  • Water Harvesting Guidance Manual provides basic information and design ideas for developments subject to the water harvesting requirements of the City of Tucson Land Use Code. This includes commercial sites, public buildings, subdivisions and public rights-of-way. The manual is also useful for homeowners.

  • Using Gray Water at Home this brochure provides general information about gray water use in Arizona. Developed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

  • Gray Water Site Assessment Checklist for an Oasis design consultation fill out the Site Assessment found in the first three pages. This whole checklist serves also as a guide for a DIY system, or to orient others to your project.

Training and Certifications

State and local governments, communities and water providers encourage the design, installation, and maintenance of water-efficient landscapes in both the public and private sectors. More and more cities, towns, water districts, and property managers require training for landscapers to ensure that they have the skills to effectively manage water using a water budget. A broad variety of training opportunities are available in Arizona:


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Smartscape is a comprehensive training program that instructs landscape and irrigation professionals in the fundamentals of design, installation, irrigation and maintenance of sustainable desert-adapted landscapes and irrigation systems. With informative classes, networking, and marketing opportunities, Smartscape is an affordable way for professionals to strengthen their Arizona-friendly landscaping practice and bring innovation to their business. 

Arizona Certified Landscape Professional

Sponsored by the Arizona Landscape Contractor’s Association, the ACLP program includes a series of one day workshops and certification exams in the following subject areas: Plant Problems, Soils/Fertilizers, Plant Identification, Irrigation, Equipment/Safety, Color, Tree Planting, Turf/Sod, Calibrations/Pesticides, Tree Pruning and Water Management.

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Arizona Certified Nursery Professional

The Arizona Nursery Association offers two programs: the base program where applicants take a one day class and must pass an exam, and an advanced certification program that includes three modules: Integrated Pest Management, Turf Management, and Irrigation Management.

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Desert Landscape School program

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix offers this series of workshops that focus on the care and maintenance of desert-adapted plants including irrigation, troubleshooting, pruning and installation. 

S.H.A.D.E.: Southwest Horticulture Annual Day of Education

An annual conference for Landscapers, Landscape Architect and Designers, Landscape Supervisors, Nursery Professionals, and the Green Industry, usually held in August.


Water Sense
WaterSense Certified Landscape Professional

WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  WaterSense landscape irrigation partners are certified through WaterSense labeled programs for their expertise in water-efficient irrigation technology and techniques. Find an Arizona Certified Partner!

Irrigation Association
Irrigation Association Certifications

The Irrigation Association (IA) a national, nonprofit organization, provides the following certifications:

  • Certified Irrigation Contractor (CIC)*
  • Certified Irrigation Designer (CID)*
  • Certified Golf Irrigation Auditor (CGIA)*
  • Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA)*
  • Certified Landscape Irrigation Manager (CLIM)* [must be certified as a CIC, CID and either CLIA or CGIA]
  • Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialist (CAIS)
  • Certified Water Conservation Manager – Landscape (CWCM-L) 
International Society of Arborists

Earning an ISA Credential is a voluntary activity that demonstrates you have the knowledge and skills to properly care for trees, as well as a high level of dedication to your profession and your community. ISA Credential holders understand the importance of continued education to increase their expertise and advance their careers.