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Water-Wise Gardens 1: City streetscape in its fuller potential


Water is a precious resource, as without it life on earth is not possible. Living in Colorado we often witness its scarcity, especially during years when we have water restrictions. At Altgelt and Associates we recognize the importance of using water responsibly. Landscape architects in all sectors need to find a water-wise balance by prioritizing the allocation of water without necessarily eliminating it from the garden or landscape.
An urban setting with all of its paved surfaces becomes far hotter than the natural surrounding environment, and if we do not mitigate this by bringing in a more heavily planted landscape, life would eventually become unbearably hot. Some cities are now encouraging xeriscaping to reduce their water use, but the average temperature in those cities keeps increasing with annual rainfall decreasing. This clearly indicates to us at Altgelt and Associates the need for water-wise landscaping:  a consciousness regarding the over-use of water and altering the surrounding climate too heavily.
How do trees hold up in the cost-value context within landscape architecture? If you have ever stood underneath a tree on a hot summer day, you will have felt that it provides a cooling effect far superior to that of a shade structure. Trees act like a natural swamp cooler since they are always losing a little water when they ‘breathe’. Likewise, trees make us feel happier, provide a mitigating effect on urbanization and help counter the negative effects of pollution. Trees also reduce the amount of water needed by the plants that grow beneath them, and the simultaneous improvement to the visual experience of our cities is uplifting. Rightfully, the upscale sectors of cities already invest heavily in their landscape with a focus on maintaining shade and ornamental trees. Do these trees need water? Yes! Is the cost-benefit ratio acceptable? Definitely!