Eco Gardener Classes

WRD’s Lillian Kawasaki Eco Gardener Program®

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) manages groundwater for 43 cities in south Los Angeles (LA) County. WRD serves approximately 400,000 residents of southern Los Angeles County, or 10% of the State’s population. WRD is involved in groundwater monitoring, safe drinking water programs, groundwater replenishment operations and promoting water and energy conservation. In southern California, landscaping irrigation accounts for 60% to 70% of urban water use. As water becomes scarce, it is apparent that water conservation is critical to the future of southern California’s water supply.

The State of California has mandated a 20% reduction in per capita water use by 2020. With this State goal combined with a recurring drought in southern California at its highest point in history, WRD has seen the need to educate the public not through mailers but with hands-on conservation training. The Lillian Kawasaki Eco Gardener Training Program enhances the importance of water conservation. Providing customers with one of the best residential green gardening entrepreneurial training programs translates into effective reduction in water demand and usage in the region, and good resources stewardship by WRD. The Program will educate the public about simple ways to save water, reduce usage and waste, and contribute to a more reliable water supply now and in the future. The Lillian Kawasaki Eco Gardener Program will further resonate as water rates increase, driving users to less water intensive landscaping, increasing the demand for knowledgeable landscapers.

WRD’s Lillian Kawasaki Eco Gardener Training Programs train residents, gardeners, and landscape maintenance crews to become responsible “green” gardeners by implementing water conservation practices in outdoor landscapes, and professional and municipal crews increase their productivity and business skills. The existing 4-course residential Eco Gardener series is geared towards educating residents on water efficiency irrigation systems, native plant and California-friendly landscape design, landscape design and maintenance. The Eco Professional series is geared towards a target audience consisting of low-skilled laborers who work in the informal landscape maintenance business (commonly known as “mow and blow gardeners”) and professional landscapers including municipal Parks & Recreation landscape crews, School groundskeepers, and industrial landscapers. The Eco Professional also educates participants on water efficiency irrigation systems, native plant and California-friendly landscape design, landscape design and maintenance as well as how to start a landscape business and secure city permits to operate in certain LA County cities. There are two components to this Program, each reaching a different audience. Track 1 (ECO LANDSCAPER) involves training low-skilled laborers who work in the informal landscape maintenance business on water saving methods of gardening that also reduce run-off and contamination groundwater basins, rivers and beaches. Track 2 (ECO PRO) involves the training of professional landscapers including municipal Parks & Recreation landscape crews, School groundskeepers, and industrial landscapers. The Program will offer instruction in:

  • Garden Design Concepts
  • ET Controller Concepts
  • Garden Design Application
  • Smart Gardening
  • Irrigation Basics
  • Horticultural Practices
  • Drought Tolerant Plants
  • Starting a Landscape Business
  • Irrigation Scheduling & Maintenance Guidelines
  • Obtaining City Permits
  • Effective Communication with Clients on Water Conservation

The classes have a specific, tried and true collection of information that is shared with each participant by providing them with a manual outlining methods they can use to reduce water use and the training sessions are hands on to encourage questions and provide a full understanding of the concepts presented. Landscapers work directly with water and if they have the knowledge to reduce water use, they can suggest particular California-native plants to customers and implement water efficient irrigation systems. They have the potential to save a great amount of water; typically, a garden utilizing California-friendly plants uses 30% less water than a common garden using non-native plants and as high as 70% less water during hot dry months. Additionally, California-friendly plants are able to go without water for a long period of time, potentially saving 14,400 gallons of water annually per household during water shortages.

History of program

A pilot program was initiated in the fall of 2006 with classes being held at a local junior college. Due to its success more classes were added each year. Following the relocation of the WRD administration offices to their current location classes have been held there as well. As part of the remodel of the administration building the site was landscaped by a professional landscape architect to serve as demonstration site for drought tolerant landscaping.

The location for the ECO PRO classes has since been expanded to include a diverse set of locations to reach the largest number of people, both low-skilled laborers and professional business persons. In fact, classes for municipal Parks & Recreation landscape crews and School groundskeepers are conducted in the participant’s maintenance yards to make access to the program as easy as possible. Since 2006, over 4000 participants have been trained through the Eco Gardener Program with an additional 1000 participants trained through the ECO PRO program. WRD hopes to reach another 500 participants for ECO PRO and 1200 for ECO Gardener beginning in the immediate future.

Effective outreach and education is needed now more than ever to achieve the State mandated 20% per capita use reductions, in light of the serious drought in southern California. The Eco Gardener Program provides gardeners, landscapers and residents at all levels of experience with hands-on demonstrations and community-specific knowledge and tools to save water. These courses are locally-tailored, free of charge, and effective for reaching the populous, under-served, environmentally-strained communities lacking access to these types of educational opportunities. The knowledge gained by participants can be passed from person to person; the landscaper will pass the knowledge on to their customers who can then inform their families and friends within the community.

Eco Gardener Class Descriptions

Residential WaterWELL

Leak Detection Class

This workshop will help participants learn how to determine if there is a water leak on the property and how to isolate the leak. Participants will also learn how to fix some of the common indoor and outdoor household leaks, along with understanding how to conserve water by using new technologies.

Professional WaterWELL

Sustainable Landscape Design

This workshop will help participants design a landscape that uses minimal resources such as pesticides, herbicides and especially water! This class goes through the philosophy of creating a natural watershed on their property by using rain water as the main source of irrigating the landscape and using their irrigation system as a secondary water source. The class covers irrigation system parts, drought-tolerant plants, design and maintenance.

WaterWELL Kids

Kids Water Conservation

This presentation will teach children how to save water both inside and outside the home. This workshop will explain to children the importance of saving water during our time of drought by doing little things around the home to help reduce the amount of water that is used. This class will also demonstrate how to grow your own vegetable garden.

GMC Academy

Understanding the CA MWELO

This workshop is to educate the landscape professional on the new Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (AB 1881). The key points of discussion are how to minimize overspray and runoff, to evaluate and select drought-tolerant and California native plants, the use of water efficient irrigation equipment/technologies, to develop irrigation schedules and water use budgets according to new water use requirements (MAWA and ETWU), to make soil assessments/analysis and soil management plants, develop an ongoing landscape maintenance and horticultural practices plan, and encourage design features for rainwater and onsite irrigation capture and retention.

Commercial, Industrial and Institutional (CII) Survey Training for Agencies

This CII and irrigation training workshop will prepare participants to conduct water use surveys. They will learn how to evaluate indoor water use and assess landscape irrigation conditions. Becoming a well-trained and experienced surveyor will enable participants to communicate deficiencies in indoor and outdoor water usage. GMC will stress the importance of gathering site information properly and how to communicate major water use problems. The participants will review efficiency standards for old and new indoor water use fixtures/devices and learn about recommendations on retrofitting them. Participants will learn to evaluate the components and the layout of an irrigation system for efficiency. This workshop will also cover new water-efficient irrigation technologies, and recommendations for new installations and retrofitting. A section of this workshop is dedicated to the maintenance of the most common irrigation problems that occur in the landscape as well as possible solutions. Lastly, participants will also examine and work with various types of sprinklers and irrigation components.

Large Landscape (LL) Survey Training Workshop for Agencies

The Large Landscape (LL) survey training consists of preparing water purveyors’ staff to evaluate landscape and irrigation conditions. Participants will also learn how to educate property owners/managers on landscape management and efficient water use practices. Providing a long-term landscape maintenance plan and valuable water management recommendations is essential to make a site’s overall outdoor water use more efficient and manageable.

The training will cover the importance of gathering site information properly, how to communicate major irrigation and landscape problems, how to develop and deliver reports to customers in a timely manner, and tips on what and how to distribute local water agency information to promote outdoor efficient water use.

The workshop is one day of training. It consists of an in-class presentation and a full outdoor evaluation of the irrigation system and landscape. Attendees will learn the importance of identifying plant types, irrigation system components and the problems that can occur. They will conduct a full outdoor survey from start to finish.

Residential Water Survey (RWS) Training Workshop for Agencies

The Department of Health Services, Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management, has authorized GMC to issue up to 10 contact hours to Residential Water Survey (RWS) workshop participants. The RWS training consists of preparing water purveyors’ staff to evaluate indoor water use and assess residential landscape and irrigation conditions. Having a well-trained and experienced surveyor, they will be able to communicate to the homeowner the deficiencies in their indoor and outdoor water use and provide information for making their overall water use more efficient.

GMC will teach the surveyors the importance of properly gathering site information, how to communicate major problems to the homeowner during the survey, how to develop and deliver reports to customers in a timely manner after surveying sites, and tips on what and how to distribute local water agency information to promote efficient water use. The workshop takes place over the course of two days. The first day consists of an in-class presentation with a roleplaying exercise, which will go through various scenarios that occasionally occur while conducting water surveys. The participant will have a chance to interact with a partner and come up with a solution to the given scenario.

Day 2 is conducted at a predetermined residential site. Attendees will carry out hands-on exercises such as appropriate interaction with the homeowner, taking flow rates, visual inspections, evaluating the irrigation system & landscape, and much more. They will conduct a full survey from start to finish.



Horticultural Practices for CA Native Plants (Currently in Development)

This class will help educate participants that already have a California native garden or for those who are considering installing a CA native garden. Since CA native plants may be new to some homeowners who are moving away from turf, this class will teach participants how to care for their new landscape and how to care for CA native plants, specifically. This class covers everything from cultural practices such as pruning techniques, managing the fertility of the soil and irrigation system schedule, and pest management and abatement.

A Business Approach to California Friendly Landscaping (Future Class)


This class will help landscape business owners how to transition their business from a primarily thirsty turf-dominated landscape to a water-efficient drought-tolerant or California friendly landscape. This class will demonstrate to participants how to educate and empower their clients on conserving water, yet achieving their landscaping desires. Participants will learn about landscaping with drought-tolerant plants and how to market the maintenance of drought-tolerant landscapes. Preferred cultural practices and seasonal maintenance schedules will also be discussed for new water-efficient CA friendly landscapes.