Alternative Water Sources:
Most landscapes are planted and
cultivated for vibrant plants.
Sustainable landscapes are planted
and cultivated for a vibrant future. In a span
of approximately six months, initiated with
volunteered design plans from Palomar
College’s Environmental Architecture and
Design class and continued with donations
and assistance from various businesses and
organizations in the community, Vallecitos
Water District (Vallecitos) now has a beautiful,
sustainable demonstration garden that uses
minimal resources as a benefit to all.
Today, the vast assortment of colorful,
California-friendly plants on vivid display
complementing the outside of the water
district’s San Marcos headquarters are the
result of harvested seeds. This garden’s
conception, however, actually started way
before any architectural design student’s
pen hit paper or a community volunteer
worker’s shovel was forcefully driven into
the course, dry ground.
Vallecitos is 100 percent reliant on imported
water supplies from its wholesalers.
However, lack of rain and snow continue
to plague availability from the Colorado
River Basin, and the possibility of drought
and increased environmental regulations
restricting pumping from the Sacramento-
San Joaquin Bay Delta in Northern California,
potentially limit water availability in
This prompted the agency—responsible
for supplying water and wastewater service
to approximately 96,500 residents in a
28 SOURCE summer 2012
45-square-mile area of North San Diego
County—to take matters into its own
hands with cutting edge projects geared at
Considering alternate sources was not
unusual at Vallecitos. The district spent
millions of dollars upgrading its water reclamation
plant to recycle and resale up to 74
percent of the wastewater generated in its
service area, lowering regional demand for
potable water in the process.
Vallecitos also continues to investigate the
viability of receiving up to 7,500 acre feet
or approximately half of its annual supply
from desalinated water from a soon-to-be
constructed plant in Carlsbad. The sustainability
effort went beyond water when
the district erected solar parking ports to
provide up to 90 percent of the energy used
by its headquarters facility.
However, there was a problem. As progressive
as the majority of the solutions were for
bolstering water supply for the future, they
didn’t offer much in the form of tangibility—
a form of conservation easily identified with
that could appeal to Vallecitos customers’
sense of touch and feel.
As a remedy, Vallecitos went to work on
the region’s first sustainability garden.
Converting the existing landscape of decorative
plants, the new garden is a demonstration
of conservation in action that every
visitor can take in on the run.
One important sustainable feature is the
garden’s rainwater harvesting system.
An alternate source lowering reliance on
potable water, the system collects rain from
the roof that would otherwise be wasted
and stores it in three tanks with a combined
2,500 gallons of capacity.
The captured water from the system
supplies water to prominent water features
located throughout the garden. Similarly,
the features run on solar power, easing reliance
on electricity from the California grid.
Further resource savings are demonstrated
through the use of California-friendly
plants. When combined with mulch and
compost, the plants are sustained with
moisture and nutrients, eliminating or
reducing the need for fertilizers, which can
be harmful to the environment if they flow
into the storm drain system.
With the final components of a weatherbased
irrigation controller display, shade
structures constructed of partially recycled
aluminum instead of wood, dry riverbeds,
artificial turf, micro-irrigation, and an
artistic sculpture demonstrating the value
of water, Vallecitos’ new garden boasts the
perfect blend to please aesthetically while
reducing the demand on limited resources
for the future.
The new Vallecitos garden is one of the few
locations in North San Diego County that
demonstrates sustainability for all to visit. S
Torrey Webb is Public Information Representative
for the Vallecitos Water District.
By Torrey Webb, Vallecitos Water District