A Comprehensive Checklist for Landscape Architects: Navigating Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO) Compliance

California's Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO) sets the stage for landscape architects to create sustainable, water-wise outdoor spaces. As stewards of the environment and design innovators, landscape architects play a pivotal role in ensuring that their projects align with WELO guidelines. This comprehensive checklist is crafted to guide landscape architects through the intricacies of WELO compliance, offering a step-by-step approach from project inception to completion.

  1. Understanding WELO: A Primer for Landscape Architects

    • WELO Overview: Provide a brief overview of the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, emphasizing its significance in water conservation efforts in California. Highlight key objectives, including reducing water consumption and promoting sustainable landscaping practices.

    • Legal and Regulatory Framework: Familiarize landscape architects with the legal and regulatory aspects of WELO. Clarify the jurisdictional requirements and potential consequences of non-compliance to ensure landscape architects are well-informed.

    • WELO Documentation: Introduce the essential documentation requirements outlined in WELO. Emphasize the importance of maintaining accurate records throughout the project, from design and installation to maintenance.

  2. Site Analysis and Assessment

    • Climate and Microclimate Considerations: Analyze the local climate and microclimate of the project site. Consider factors such as temperature variations, precipitation levels, and prevailing winds to inform plant selection and irrigation design.

    • Soil Analysis: Conduct a thorough soil analysis to understand soil composition, structure, and drainage. This information is crucial for tailoring landscape designs to the specific needs and conditions of the soil.

    • Existing Vegetation: Evaluate the existing vegetation on the site. Determine which plants are thriving and which may struggle in the current conditions. This analysis informs decisions about retaining, removing, or introducing specific plant species.

  3. Designing with Water Efficiency in Mind

    • Plant Selection: Choose plants that are well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions. Prioritize drought-tolerant and native species to reduce water demand and enhance overall landscape resilience.

    • Efficient Irrigation Design: Develop an irrigation plan that aligns with WELO guidelines. Consider factors such as water distribution efficiency, irrigation scheduling, and the use of water-efficient technologies like drip irrigation or smart controllers.

    • Mulching Strategies: Integrate mulching into the landscape design to conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Specify appropriate mulch materials and application methods based on site conditions.

  4. WELO Compliance Documentation

    • Water Budget Calculation: Calculate the water budget for the landscape project in accordance with WELO requirements. Ensure that the proposed water use does not exceed the calculated allowable water budget for each hydrozone.

    • Planting Plans and Details: Develop detailed planting plans that specify plant types, quantities, and locations. Include information on plant spacing, mature sizes, and expected water requirements, demonstrating compliance with WELO standards.

    • Irrigation Plans: Provide comprehensive irrigation plans that detail the layout of the irrigation system, water distribution methods, and scheduling. Include information on water-efficient technologies and practices employed to meet WELO guidelines.

  5. Construction and Installation

    • Quality Assurance: Implement quality assurance measures during the construction phase to ensure that the landscape is installed according to the approved plans. Regularly monitor and inspect the installation to identify and address any deviations.

    • Water Management During Construction: Develop and implement strategies to manage water usage during construction. Minimize soil disturbance, protect existing vegetation, and implement erosion control measures to prevent water runoff and soil erosion.

    • Installation of Irrigation Systems: Oversee the installation of irrigation systems to ensure they align with the approved plans. Verify the correct placement of irrigation components, proper system operation, and adherence to water-efficient practices.

  6. Post-Construction and Maintenance

    • Establishment Period Care: Provide guidance on care during the establishment period, emphasizing the importance of proper watering to promote the healthy establishment of plants. Adjust irrigation schedules as needed based on seasonal conditions.

    • Monitoring and Adjustments: Develop a post-construction monitoring plan to assess the performance of the landscape over time. Regularly inspect irrigation systems, evaluate plant health, and make necessary adjustments to ensure ongoing WELO compliance.

    • Documentation of Maintenance Practices: Maintain detailed records of ongoing maintenance practices. Document irrigation adjustments, plant replacements, and any changes made to the landscape to demonstrate ongoing compliance with WELO requirements.

  7. Case Studies: Showcasing Successful WELO-Compliant Projects

    • Highlighting Diverse Projects: Showcase a variety of landscape projects that have successfully adhered to WELO guidelines. Include examples from residential, commercial, and public spaces to illustrate the adaptability of WELO principles.

    • Quantifiable Success Metrics: Present quantifiable success metrics from these case studies, such as reduced water consumption, increased plant health, and minimized environmental impact. Use data to demonstrate the tangible benefits of WELO compliance.

    • Lessons Learned and Best Practices: Extract lessons learned from these case studies and distill them into best practices for landscape architects. Explore challenges encountered, innovative solutions implemented, and the long-term outcomes of WELO-compliant projects.

  8. Continuous Professional Development for Landscape Architects

    • Staying Informed on Regulatory Changes: Emphasize the importance of staying informed about any updates or changes to WELO regulations. Encourage landscape architects to actively engage in continuous professional development to enhance their knowledge and skills.

    • Participation in Industry Associations: Advocate for active participation in landscape architecture industry associations and networks. These platforms provide opportunities for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and staying abreast of industry trends and best practices.

    • Integration of Sustainable Design Principles: Encourage landscape architects to integrate broader sustainable design principles into their practice beyond WELO compliance. Emphasize the role of landscape architecture in contributing to environmental conservation and resilience.

In conclusion, navigating WELO compliance as a landscape architect requires a holistic approach, from project conception to post-construction maintenance. This comprehensive checklist serves as a roadmap for landscape architects, providing a structured guide to ensure compliance with WELO guidelines while fostering sustainable and water-efficient landscapes. By understanding the nuances of WELO, incorporating water-efficient design practices, and leveraging case studies of successful projects, landscape architects can contribute to a water-wise future for California's outdoor spaces.

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Understanding Soil Health

Assessing soil health involves looking at physical, chemical, and biological components.

Soil health is a fundamental concept that underpins the success of agriculture, gardening, and land management practices. It refers to the overall well-being and vitality of the soil ecosystem, encompassing physical, chemical, and biological aspects. Understanding soil health is crucial for maintaining sustainable and productive landscapes while also contributing to environmental conservation.

  1. Physical
    The physical properties of soil play a critical role in its health. These properties include soil texture, structure, compaction, and water-holding capacity. Soil texture refers to the proportions of sand, silt, and clay particles in the soil. A balanced texture allows for adequate water drainage and retention, preventing waterlogging and drought stress. Soil structure influences root penetration, aeration, and nutrient movement. Healthy soil structure promotes a friable and well-drained medium for plant growth.
  2. Chemical
    Soil chemistry directly affects nutrient availability and plant growth. Key chemical factors include soil pH, nutrient content, and the presence of contaminants. Soil pH measures the soil's acidity or alkalinity and profoundly influences nutrient uptake by plants. Nutrient content, including macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, must be in balance to support healthy plant growth. Monitoring and maintaining proper nutrient levels through fertilization are essential for maximizing crop yields and preventing nutrient deficiencies.
  3. Biological
    The biological component of soil health pertains to the diverse array of microorganisms, insects, and other organisms that inhabit the soil ecosystem. These organisms play crucial roles in nutrient cycling, organic matter decomposition, and disease suppression. Soil microorganisms break down organic matter, releasing nutrients that are subsequently made available to plants. A rich and diverse soil microbiome contributes to enhanced nutrient availability and plant resilience against diseases.

Our Soil Tests

We provide a range of soil tests from basic chemistry, to texture/infiltration rate, all the way to biology.

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Basic Soil Health Test

The Basic Soil Health Test is an excellent starting point for understanding your soil's condition. It offers a comprehensive analysis encompassing pH levels, nutrient content, CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity), salts, and organic matter. This budget-friendly test is ideal for identifying potential soil health issues and establishing a solid foundation for further management.

Full Chemistry Test

Our Full Chemistry Test provides a detailed assessment of your soil's quality, guiding you towards healthy and sustainable soil management practices. Through an extensive analysis, we examine macro and micronutrient levels, pH, CEC, organic matter, and salinity. This comprehensive understanding empowers us to create tailored recommendations for soil amendments and treatments, optimized for the specific plants you intend to cultivate. By optimizing your soil's chemistry, you can expect to foster more robust and vibrant plant growth.

Complete Soil Health Test

Uncover a deeper understanding of your soil's health with the Complete Soil Health Test. This comprehensive analysis goes beyond the basics, measuring nutritional factors and examining soil texture. It covers macro and micronutrients, organic matter, pH, CEC, as well as sand, silt, and clay percentages. Additionally, we assess carbon sequestration levels, providing you with a holistic view of your soil's composition. The personalized recommendations derived from this test empower you to make precise adjustments to enhance your soil's health and productivity.

MWELO Soil Management Report

For those navigating California's MWELO guidelines, our MWELO Soil Management Report is an indispensable resource. This report not only ensures compliance but also promotes sustainable and thriving landscapes. It includes comprehensive data such as soil texture, infiltration rate, pH, total soluble salts, sodium content, and organic matter percentage. With amendment recommendations, optionally tailored to specific plant types, and annual maintenance tips, you'll be equipped to create landscapes that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.

Heavy Metals

The Heavy Metals analysis is a vital tool in assessing potential soil contamination. Given the uncertain history of properties, this analysis identifies the presence of heavy metals that might have accumulated due to past activities or nearby industrial sources. With results available in approximately nine business days, you'll gain insights to ensure the safety and health of your soil.

Soil Food Web

Explore the intricate world beneath the surface with our Soil Food Web analysis. By estimating population sizes of essential trophic groups—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes—we unveil the microbiological health of your soil. Additionally, we identify specific organisms within these groups, providing insights into the soil's successional level and overall condition. This analysis is applicable to soil, compost, and compost tea samples, offering a holistic perspective on your soil's biological vitality.

Pesticide Screening

The Pesticide Screening can detect hundreds on common pesticides that may have been applied or drifted from nearby sources.

Herbicide Screening

The Herbicide Screening plays an important role in ensuring the safety of your soil and plants. By detecting the presence of herbicide residues, this test can indicated whether a soil has had history of herbicide applications.

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Regenerative Soil Management Practices

Working with nature to improve soil means implementing practices like cover cropping, mulching, and composting.

Cover Cropping

Cover cropping involves planting specific crops during non-growing seasons to cover and protect the soil. These crops enhance soil structure, prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide organic matter when incorporated into the soil. Leguminous cover crops also contribute nitrogen fixation, enriching soil fertility naturally. Cover cropping is a sustainable method that improves soil health and biodiversity.


Mulching entails covering the soil surface with organic materials like straw, leaves, or wood chips. Mulch conserves soil moisture, moderates temperature fluctuations, suppresses weeds, and prevents soil erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it contributes organic matter, enriching the soil's structure and fertility. Mulching is an effective and easy way to maintain soil health.


Composting transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. Incorporating compost into the soil enhances its structure, moisture retention, and fertility. Compost also introduces beneficial microorganisms that aid in nutrient cycling and disease suppression. Composting not only reduces waste but also revitalizes soil, making it an essential component of sustainable gardening.

Water Conservation Techniques

Implementing water-efficient practices such as drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and utilizing drought-resistant plants minimizes water use and reduces soil erosion. Conserving water in landscapes maintains soil moisture, supports plant growth, and sustains overall soil health. Water conservation techniques are vital for responsible gardening in arid and water-scarce regions.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with the Alluvial Soil Lab team at (831) 216-1367 or at info@alluvialsoillab.com

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