California River Awards

Friends of the River – California River Awards – 2014 Mark Dubois Honoree

WBA staff member, Cheryl Buckwalter, was one of the distinguished honorees this year for the Mark Dubois award – Friends of the River. Congratulations Cheryl!
 Water Management
“Our second honoree is a true leader in landscape water conservation, a sector that accounts for more than half of total urban water use.

Cheryl Buckwalter has dedicated herself personally and professionally to helping Californians grow beautiful “River Friendly” landscapes that use minimal water and reduce runoff. With her experience as a landscape designer and Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor, Cheryl is taking on America’s largest irrigated crop: lawn grass.

Today, as the Executive Director of Eco Landscape California, Cheryl is transforming landscapes to need little or no irrigation, greatly reducing the amount of water we need to pull out of rivers and aquifers. Cheryl provides practical, user-friendly training, plans, referrals, and outreach to help Californians create healthy, beautiful, vibrant urban landscapes while conserving water, reducing yard waste, and preventing pollution of our air and rivers. She developed Eco-Friendly Landscape Design Plans for the New California Landscape—a free, on-line “package” of landscape and irrigation designs, comprehensive plant profiles, irrigation schedules, and maintenance practices to demonstrate watershed-based models for sustainability, resource-efficiency and protection, and environmental stewardship.

Her work has resulted in homeowners and municipalities implementing low-water use landscapes across central California. Cheryl has collaborated with countless agencies, land developers, and non-profit organizations to teach about, and implement, water-efficient landscaping including Roseville’s “Cash for Grass” landscape incentive program

The drought has greatly expanded her audience as her work has been widely reported by media outlets throughout the state. She is now leveraging this exposure and her experience to accelerate the pace of change toward more sustainable landscapes across the state.”

March For Water

California Water Year 2014 Among Driest Years on Record

California’s water year 2014 – which ended Sept. 30 – will go down as one of the driest years in the state’s recorded history, resulting in a dismally low 5% of water deliveries from the State Water Project and thousands of acres of cropland idled, according to newly released figures from the California Department of Water Resources.

Water year 2014 is ending with less than 60% of average precipitation and is the third consecutive year the state has battled record low precipitation. It is the fourth driest year on record exceeded only by 1977, 1924 and 1931. As a result of the lack of rain, on Sept.1 the state’s major reservoirs collectively held only 57% of average storage for the date, or about 36% of capacity, according to DWR figures.

Forecasts are unclear as to whether 2015 will bring more rain. The federally run Central Valley Project has reduced deliveries down to zero for some junior rights holders.

“The immediate certainty is that day-to-day conservation – wise, sparing use of water – is essential as we face the possibility of a fourth dry winter,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency in January and called for a 20% reduction in water use. Water agencies up and down the state have responded to the call for conservation, adopting mandatory water restrictions and ramping up their conservation messaging. Many communities have exceeded the 20% reduction in water usage over last year’s figures.

Still, some communities are scrambling for drinking water and on September 19, the Governor streamlined the delivery of water to families in need.

Many experts believe the deepening drought has increased the severity of the fire season, with fires spreading more rapidly and farther due to dry conditions.

Officials with DWR note that while cumulative reservoir storage in 1977 – California’s driest year on record – was approximately five million acre-feet less than today, the state’s population has increased dramatically since that time so the state’s water now must serve far more people.

DWR and the Association of California Water Agencies urge all Californians to conserve water by following the advice and tips found at

DWR’s California Data Exchange Center websites show current water conditions at the state’s largest reservoirs and weather stations.



Almost 60 percent of the state is facing exceptional drought.

California is drying up.

“This is a big deal,” California Governor Jerry Brown said at a ceremony Tuesday as he signed into law a trio of bills regulating, for the first time, the state’s groundwater use. As of Thursday, almost 60 percent of the state is facing “exceptional drought,” the most severe level of dryness measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

But if you’re not living in a community dependent on bottled water rations, farming land that’s projected to lose $800 million in crop revenue or watching raging wildfires ravage your drought-parched town, the historic California drought may still feel like little more than a headline.

To fully grasp how desperate California is for relief, we’ve created six before-and-after GIFs that will show you how badly the drought has dehydrated the state in just the last three years.

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels near Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, and much lower levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels near Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, and much lower levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible behind the Folsom Dam at Folsom Lake on July 20, 2011, in El Folsom, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Getty Images

Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014.

The Green Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California, followed by current drought levels on Aug. 19, 2014.


This article was originally produced by Lydia O'Connor and Chris McGonigal from the Huffington Post.

State Water Board Approves Emergency Regulation to Increase Water Conservation

Due to the severe continuing drought in California, on July 15, 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency regulations to ensure water agencies and their customers conserve outdoor water use or face possible fines.

 Almost 60% of water use is for outdoor landscaping, mostly turf.  Californians will be expected to  stop washing down driveways and sidewalks; watering of outdoor landscapes that cause excess; using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitting with using a shut off nozzle and using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature unless water is circulated.

Local agencies can ask courts to impose fines of up to $500 for failure to adhere to these water restrictions. 

 This emergency regulation will be in place for 270 days.  The State Water Board will revisit this regulation and may enhance the restrictions as the drought continues.

 One way of reducing your outdoor water is to remove turf.  Many water districts are offering rebates to homeowners – as much as $3.00 a square foot – to remove the turf from your property in favor of California friendly plants.  Contact your local water agency for information on turf removal rebates or go to SoCal Water Smart.  LA County is offering free mulch at 11 different locations across the county.  For more information, go to Be Waterwise.    You will save money and our precious water.

California Landscape Consultants

Be Fire Smart!

April 30, 2014

Be Fire Smart!

High winds and hot, dry weather = fire threat

Southern California is experiencing extremely hot, dry weather, compounded by powerful Santa Ana winds, gusting up to 75 mph in some areas, prompting red flag warnings.  Temperatures in some areas could reach 100°.   The prolonged drought has made the threat of fire very high. 

Homeowners can take measures to keep fire from their homes. 

  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters, eaves, patios and decks.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and clear all brush and dead vegetation away from house.
  • Keep tree tops pruned.
  • When planting, choose native fire-resistant landscape.





High winds and hot, dry weather = fire threat

Southern California is experiencing extremely hot, dry weather, compounded by high winds.  Powerful Santa Ana winds are gusting up to 75 mph in some areas, prompting red flag warnings.  Temperatures in some areas could reach 100°.   The prolonged drought has made the threat of fire very high. 

Homeowners can take measures to keep fire from their homes.

  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and clear all brush and dead vegetation away from house.
  • Keep tree tops pruned.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • When planting, choose native fire-resistant landscape.
irrigation education

Irrigation and Pesticide Training for Spanish Speaking Gardeners

In conjunction with the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the University of California Cooperative Extension, William Baker & Associates is conducting training for Spanish speaking gardeners in the areas of irrigation and proper pesticide use and safety.  Classes are taught entirely in Spanish.  To date, over 300 gardeners have been trained in ten separate classes.  On April 22, 2014, we had 48 attendees at the San Marcos Community Center in San Marcos.   Instructors were Jaime Bayona and Lea Corkidi.  Two continuing education credits were earned by DPR license and certificate holders.

Two upcoming training classes will be held in May:  May 19th at the LA Arboretum, 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007 (8:00 AM to 4:00 PM) and May 22nd at Western Metropolitan Water District, 14205 Meridian Pkwy, March Air Reserve Base, CA 92508 (2:00 PM – 5:00 PM).  Continuing education credits will be available to DPR license and certificate holders.  Topics will be pesticide use and safety and irrigation.

landsape consulting

Go Drought Tolerant!


On January 17, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared California a state of emergency due to drought.  California is facing the worst drought in years and every Californian is being asked to reduce their water by 20%.  For most homeowners, the biggest water user is green grass.  Sprinkler heads come in different sizes.  Therefore, the rate of flow will be determined by the head-size, the frictional losses in the supply pipework, and the head of water available. Lawn sprinklers are usually small pop-ups putting out 1.5 to 2 gals. per minute.  For example, if each valve is operating 10 sprinklers at 1.5 gals per sprinkler, you are using 15 gallons of water per minute.  (10 x 1.5 =15 gallons per minute.)  Let’s say you run your sprinklers for 10 minutes each day.  That is 150 gallons of water per day!   No matter how you add it up, that’s a lot of water! 

The easiest way to reduce water is to reduce green grass.  Drought tolerant plants adapt easily to our California landscape and require water infrequently once established.   Even better are the California native plants which cannot tolerate drip irrigation and many need almost no irrigation at all.  A light watering to clean off the leaves is often sufficient.  Another plus is that many native plants are fire resistant, reducing the risk of wildfire around your home.  Native plants provide natural habitats for native birds, hummingbirds, bumble bees and butterflies.

The top ten natives most easily grown in the Southern California garden are:  Pigeon Point, California Lilacs, Blue-Eyed Grass, which can be used a ground cover, Coffeeberry, which provides berries for native birds, Deer Grass, Manzanitas, Monkey flowers, Penstemons, Salivias and California Fushias.  Aside from Deer Grass, they all produce beautiful flowers and add beauty to your garden as well as reducing your use of water.    


golf course consulting

Performance Review reveals Efficient Landscape Division at the Village

laguna-woods1William Baker and Associates LLC (WBA) has conducted a Landscape Division Performance Review for Laguna Woods Village. The review began on July 1, 2013 and continued until the submission of the Final Report on October 25, 2013. During this period of time WBA spent in excess of 400 hours on the various project tasks. This includes many days on the property observing work, meeting with senior staff, touring different areas of the operation, collecting data and documents, and conducting our own tests. Additional time was spent conducting staff interviews, doing research, and writing the report.

The following is the Executive Summary found in the Landscape Department Performance Review, Page 4:

The Landscape Department is working at an excellent level of efficiency. The principles and best management practices either meet or exceed anything we see in the private sector. Resources available to the Department are indeed being utilized in an economical and efficient manner. The standards for quality are superb, and there is constant attention to improving both how quickly and how well jobs are completed. It is our studied and professional opinion that policies, standards, and procedures comply with those set forth by both the governing body of the Association and the governmental regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over Laguna Woods Village.

Staffing levels are appropriate to support the Division’s various areas of responsibility. Staff morale is high, as determined by closed session review (no management present) with 34 employees on three different days. The crews’ comments and criticisms in these sessions were mild. Conversations were also held with numerous other crew members while they were performing their assigned tasks. Additionally, a meeting was held with the supervisors from all the different areas.

Although one of these mild crew criticisms was that they were slightly understaffed, we do not feel this is sufficient reason to add employees. Being just slightly understaffed promotes performance and creativity in accomplishing the task at hand. Other staff concerns were equally low key. Of course, when working with this many individuals over this size property with such a wide range of departmental tasks things can and do go wrong. These day-to-day operational challenges are present in all similar departments, and usually to a much greater extent than we see at Laguna Woods Village.

Golf Course Review CaliforniaInternal review of the Department is a constant and continual process. There is a wealth of documentation on how they are performing. It is less clear how much the Board desires to learn about the internal workings of the Landscape Department, since there is a distinct difference between setting policy and conducting operations. Oversight by the Board would certainly appear to be at an appropriate level, since the Department is operating very effectively.

Most likely the Board is interested in receiving accurate and easily understandable information. We would conclude that the information coming out of the Department to the Board is accurate. More challenging is how to provide reports and conduct presentations that are clear and comprehensive, without getting mired in the vast amount of detail that goes into formulating the information.

Click here to read the full Landscape Division Performance Review

Click here to view the PowerPoint Presentation presented to GRF by WBA (Note: this is a very large file and may take a few minutes to download)

The full presentation will be replayed on Channel 6 November 6 at 6 p.m. and November 8 at 2:30 p.m.

What Does an HOA Landscape Assessment Entail?

capitol-parkIn order to conduct a thorough, comprehensive HOA landscape review, WBA performs an assessment of all aspects of the landscape, assuring there is operational efficiency and value received for money spent.  This includes, but does not limit turf, trees, slopes, gardens, landscape maintenance operations, small equipment repair services, irrigation evaluation, soil and water analysis, pesticide use, compost operation, interviewing staff,  rain event action plans, landscape renovation and landscape support services.

WBA will review the Lawn Maintenance for all turf, noting the overall turf color, health and vigor, the height of the cut, fertility and soil moisture content adjusted for the mowing operations schedule. 

Shrub-Bed Maintenance is also included in this review as well as tasks involved, include pruning, weeding, raking, edging planters, fertilizing as required, mulching annually, and responding to residents’ requests in accordance with policy.  Slope maintenance programs will be assessed to assure they are in line with industry standards. 

A complete review of the pesticide storage facility will be conducted to determine pest control methodologies employed by the Department.  Our review focuses closely on the safe and effective use of commercial pesticides that are utilized in the operation, assessing whether all registered materials (formulations classified as pesticides through the inclusion of an EPA Registration Number) are stored properly and locked in an area that allowed for the entry of only trained and approved personnel. 

WBA will conduct an irrigation evaluation on two separate areas of lawn and perform an irrigation audit to determine sprinkler uniformity and proper water output.  After evaluating the lawn sprinklers for any maintenance problems (broken lines, clogged nozzles, tilted heads, etc.) a catch can test will be performed.  The test is conducted to measure sprinkler distribution uniformity, and precipitation rate.  Distribution uniformity measures how evenly the water is being applied to a given area, and precipitation rate measures water in inches per hour.

If the HOA has a compost operation, a tour of the facility will be conducted, checking for salinity, pH, heavy metals, and other undesirable constituents.  Moisture levels and particle size will be assessed for correctness.

WBA will interview staff to determine what kinds of training may be needed, morale, and working conditions.  Focus groups may be held in Spanish to provide for a wide look at what is happening with field personnel in the Landscape Division.

A comprehensive soil and water analysis will be conducted and the samples will be sent to a local laboratory, checking for chlorotic conditions, nitrogen levels, elevated soil salinity, and sodium values.  The soil composition will be determined and recommendations will be made to improve soil fertility.  Water samples will be taken to check for the two components in water quality that have the greatest affect in plant health:  salts and sodium.  Both of these are present in moderate amounts when using potable water, and require management strategies to keep levels from escalating.  Reclaimed water doubles the concentration amounts of both salts and sodium.  Other negative factors associated with the water quality will be an increase in chlorides, sulfates, bicarbonates, and nitrates.

If necessary, a review will be made of the small equipment repair division of the landscaping department for efficiency and effectiveness.  WBA will also review any rain action event plans that are in place to determine if they are comprehensive and appropriate for storm management.  The preparation involves the Landscape Division checking and clearing all drains and atrium weep-hole outlets.  Any necessary emergency equipment is checked for operational readiness and secured for quick access.

A critical issue that is currently affecting large landscapes now, and in the future, will be water availability and escalating costs.  Payoff periods will become shorter and more realistic in the near future for changing out landscapes that reduce turf areas, and replace high water use shrubs with low water use plants.  WBA will assess landscape divisions to determine if they are implementing re-landscaping methods that affect slopes, shrub beds, islands, gate entries and the reduction of turf areas.  Overall costs will be reduced through re-landscaping with site appropriate shrubs that minimize labor for maintenance and reduce the amount of greenwaste and the related processing costs.

In direct support of the landscape maintenance operations, the transport and delivery of mowing equipment, both to and from the various work sites, are done by the Landscape Support Services.  Each foreman and supervisor must plan for daily needs of equipment, bulk materials, and field supplies in advance, and arrange to have them delivered on a scheduled basis. WBA will assess the mobilization of all crews leaving the main operations service yard to their various work stations.