River Friendly Landscaping Calculator River Friendly Landscaping

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What is River Friendly Landscaping?

River Friendly Landscaping is a holistic approach to landscaping that works with nature to reduce waste and prevent pollution and support the integrity of one of California’s key ecosystems, the Sacramento River Watershed. You can use the 7 principles of River Friendly Landscaping to create a healthy, beautiful and vibrant landscape.

To learn more, visit riverfriendly.org, or download the color brochure River Friendly Landscaping at Home (PDF, 4MB).

Using the River Friendly principles provides many benefits for you and our community. For example, these practices will reduce stormwater and irrigation runoff leaving your property and eliminate pesticides which are carried by runoff to our creeks and rivers. Here, they can harm fish and wildlife and make the rivers unsafe for drinking, fishing, boating and swimming. For more information about protecting our valuable water resources through stormwater pollution prevention, visit beriverfriendly.org.

Who Should Use this Calculator?

This calculator is for homeowners, landscape professionals, developers, and anyone else who wants to see how much water, time and money can be saved by creating a river-friendly landscapeMore information, converting a conventional landscape to a more sustainable one, or simply maintaining an existing landscape in a more sustainable way. Also, this tool will estimate the amount of greenhouse gases More information that can be reduced using river-friendly principles, primarily as a result of conserving water (and the energy used to deliver clean water) and recycling green waste on site, rather than hauling it to a landfill or a remote composting site.

Why should I use this calculator?

The calculator walks you through some simple steps to define the characteristics of your landscape and your maintenance practices. At the end, the calculator estimates the amount of water your landscape needs, as well as green waste and greenhouse gas emissions it produces, and the cost and labor required to maintain it, as compared to both a river-friendly landscape and a conventional one.

What will I learn from using this calculator?

The results section of this calculator will tell you if your landscape qualifies as “River Friendly.” It compares benefits of your landscape to a conventional landscape and a river-friendly one. Our hypothetical conventional landscape consists of a traditional lawn, with some medium-to-high water use flowers and shrubs, and an ordinary sprinkler irrigation system. Our river-friendly garden is made up of entirely of drought tolerant California natives or other low-water use trees, plants, and shrubs watered with an efficient drip irrigation system. Finally, the calculator provides suggestions for making your landscape more river friendly.

Note: Click on this icon More Information to get more information or help on different topics.

This site works best in modern browsers, such as the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. Sorry, we haven’t developed a mobile version yet!

Updated August 2013. If you have problems, comments, or suggestions, please email Customer Service. You can also contact the developer, Matthew Heberger at the Pacific Institute.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) trap heat close to the surface of the Earth, contributing to global warming and climate change. These gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), and others.

Many of these gases occur naturally in our environment, but scientists have measured steady increases in most of these gases (all but water vapor in the list above) since the mid-1700s, when the industrial revolution began. Carbon dioxide, by far the most commonly emitted GHG, is released primarily by burning of fossil fuels (e.g., oil, coal and natural gas).

Because carbon dioxide is the most prominent GHG in the atmosphere, it is commonly used as the metric for measuring GHG emissions. In this case, other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are converted to “equivalent CO2” or “CO2-eq”. This approach is useful for standardizing and comparing emissions from different sources and across sectors.

In Sacramento County, like the state and country as a whole, the most common source of GHG emissions is energy use for electrical generation, transportation, and for heating, cooling and lighting in buildings. Energy is also used to treat and deliver potable water to our homes and to heat the water. For this reason, water conservation practices in your home and landscape will help to reduce GHGs and lower your carbon footprint.

River Friendly vs. Conventional Landscapes

River-Friendly Landscaping practices foster soil health, conserve water and other valuable resources, reduce waste, and prevent pollution of our air and waterways. For the purposes of this online calculator, we define the two types as follows.

River Friendly

Conventional Landscape