With the abundance of rain in Oregon, it’s easy to think we have an endless supply of water. While the Portland metro area receives about 37 inches of rainfall annually, we get about 90 percent of that precipitation from October to May.

Simply put, during summer month’s when our water supply is at its lowest, we tend to use the highest amount of water — due predominantly to outdoor water use. Most people would be surprised to learn that 30 percent or more of water use during the summer goes to our landscaping.

Incorporating sensible water conservation practices is one of the easiest ways to stretch the region’s limited supply of water, especially during the dry summer months and money can be saved on water, sewer and electricity bills when we decrease water use.

A growing number of homeowners and businesses are installing water-wise gardens and landscapes to help free them from the garden hose.

In 2009, local chiropractor Rebecca Schacker decided to follow her dreams of opening an eco-friendly wellness center. She purchased a foreclosed property in SE Portland, today known as the Apex Wellness Center. Part of her vision included creating a beautiful and vibrant water-efficient garden.

“We can’t live without water; it’s an important resource we need to protect,” said Schacker. “When it came to the landscape, I wanted to have something that did not take a lot of water to maintain.”

After successfully obtaining a Green Grant from the PDC (Portland Development Commission), Schacker solicited the help of local landscape designer Kathryn Leech, APD of River City Gardens, to bring her vision for the garden to life.

“We designed the garden at Apex Wellness Center to incorporate lots of native plants,” said Leech. “We also planted an ecolawn, which doesn’t require as much water or mowing.”

Aggressive weeds and invasive plants were removed to make way for a variety of native shrubs, trees, perennials, and grasses. The ecolawn was installed, with a mixture of grasses, flowers and herbs.

A number of features were included to divert rainwater from the sewer system.

Concrete from the driveway was replaced with a walkway made of permeable pavers that allow water to soak naturally into soil and plant roots. Rain gardens and bioswales were incorporated throughout the landscape.

The result: a beautiful garden that stays green throughout the dry summer, using less water and little to no fertilizer.

“I make gardens that pull people outdoors,” said Leech. ”Many of my clients end up spending more time in their yard. It opens up a whole new world for people.”

“It’s fun to see how big and pretty the flowers get. All year round, there’s always something in bloom,” said Rebecca. “People comment all the time on how beautiful the garden is and it takes very little work and far less water to maintain.”

Plus, the waterwise garden at the Apex Wellness Center isn’t just good for the environment; it’s also good for business.

“As a business owner, I can make a lot of eco changes and achieve the triple bottom line,” said Schacker. “Many of our patients visit Apex Wellness Center because they want to support a business that cares about the environment.”

Water-efficient gardens and landscapes offer an easy way to decrease outdoor water use and help ensure that there’s enough of this precious resource for our communities in the years to come.

The Regional Water Providers Consortium, a group of 20+ local water providers plus the regional government Metro, offers a wealth of information to help people install water-efficient landscapes at their home or business. Plant lists, watering guidelines, water-saving tips and more resources are available on the Consortium website: www.conserveh2o.org