WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities
Water applied to a landscape can account for a significant portion of a commercial
or institutional property’s overall water use. Studies show that average landscape
water use in the commercial and institutional sector can range from 7 percent of
total water use for hospitals, 22 percent for office buildings, and up to 30 percent for
Typically, a landscape is watered to supplement natural precipitation based
on a plant’s water needs. In some areas of
the country, such as the arid Southwest,
this gap in water needs and precipitation
can be significant. Landscape design, soil
conditions, plant choice, and maintenance
all affect the amount of water a landscape
Section 5.2: Landscaping
best management practices that can guide
a facility in making more water-efficient
A well-designed landscape should be supported by healthy soils with appropriate
grading, mulches, regionally appropriate plant choices, appropriately sized turf areas,
and hydrozones. The following information should also be considered for a well-
Healthy soils allow water to properly infiltrate and help healthy plant root sys-
tems to develop. Soil health can be maintained with a combination of aeration
and applying compost or mulch to help the soil retain its nutrients while sup-
porting plant growth.
Appropriately graded sites with gentle slopes allow water to stay where it is
applied and get delivered to the root zone of the plants, instead of leading to
Mulches on landscaped beds can help keep soils cool and minimize evaporation.
If organic mulches, such as wood chips or shredded leaves, are used, they can
add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
An appropriate plant palette consisting of drought-tolerant, native, or regionally
appropriate species lays a solid foundation for a water-efficient landscape,
reducing water requirements, as well as the time and cost associated with main-
taining the landscape.
A smaller turf area can reduce resources and costs associated with watering,
mowing, fertilizing, and removing debris.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) WaterSense program. August 20, 2009.
Water Efficiency in the Commercial and Institutional Sector: Considerations for
a WaterSense Program
EPA’s WaterSense program. December 2009.
Research Report on Turfgrass Allowance
Reduction of turf area with plantings