Category Archives: Irrigation Issues

Post Fire – Soil Erosion


It’s a difficult time, we are still in shock, sad and grief stricken  for the lives lost and the property lost, but we are #SONOMASTRONG; #NAPASTRONG and look forward to rebuilding.  As hard as it seems right now, we need to think about preserving our land and preventing further damage due to soil erosion.

After a severe fire, the likelihood of soil erosion, causing mudslides, flooding and pollution increases upwards of 200%.  The fires burn and destroy plant material and the litter layer.  Under normal conditions shrubs, grasses, trees and the litter layer break up the intensity of severe rainstorms.  Their roots stabilize the soil and stems and leaves slow the flow of water to give it time to penetrate the ground, preventing too much runoff.    In some instances, the fire creates a gas that penetrates the soil profile.  As the soil cools, this gas condenses and forms a waxy coating (hydrophobicity) which repels water and increases the rate of water runoff.   This all leads to a dangerous situation, the runoff and debris will become too much for our stormwater drainage systems, which will lead to erosion elsewhere.  Also, debris and the fast-moving water can cause mudslides,  flood homes, businesses and neighborhoods, pollute our waterways  and are a threat to our personal being; wreaking continued havoc in our community.

It is important we begin the  work now to prevent any  further damage to our city – our home.  First and foremost, we need to come up with a restoration plan. This plan will have several focal points, including inspecting our drainage systems, cleaning our gutters, culverts, detention  basins, small streams and concrete waterways.   Our driveways, roadways, sidewalks and parking lots are often designed to sheet their runoff to the landscape, but now we must divert that runoff toward our storm drain systems and away from erosion  prone areas.  Minimizing traffic and proper watering will also help.  Installing more culverts than previously existed might be necessary.  A professional engineer can determine the size of the drainage area and the amount of runoff for the projected rainfall.

Reseeding grass and wildflowers in the severely burned areas will be carefully planned.  Santa Rosa is home to 220 native plants, grasses, shrubs and trees.  Which include black and valley oak trees, California grape and silver lupine shrubs, purple needle grass groundcover.  After reseeding, covering the seeded area with straw is important for creating an environment for seed germination.

To read more about preventing erosion, click here.  Also, Balance Hydrologics is a consulting firm committed to resolving clients environmental challenges using site-specific information and offers post-fire services.  Visit their website by clicking here.






Landscape Design + Irrigation = Savings

water-sense-logo-designThe partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense and Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT)  are focused on managing water efficiently.  No matter which state we live in, we should all be concerned with water shortages and do our best to manage water efficiently.

SWAT is an international initiative to achieve efficient landscape water use through the application of irrigation technology.  SWAT provides product testing results to the public by identifying, researching and promoting technological innovations and related management practices that advance the principles of efficient water use.

Irrigation  experts draft protocols which define scientific methods to evaluate whether products meet established standards for efficient water-use. SWAT then formulates performance testing plans for different categories of irrigation products.  Third-party testing agencies evaluate whether irrigation products submitted by manufacturers actually save water.

WaterSense uses testing data to certify products that meet certain requirements.  They partner with irrigation professionals. manufacturers, retailers, distributors, home builders,  and utilities to bring WaterSense concepts to communities throughout the country.   The WaterSense labeled products and services are certified to save at least 20 percent less water; save energy and perform well, with the emphasis on performance.

With this partnership focusing more efforts on outdoor irrigation products the number of WaterSense-certified, weather-based irrigation controllers have doubled since last year.

You can contact Firma Design Group’s Vice President, Landscapeiaauditorlogo Architect and Licensed Landscape Irrigation Auditor, Mike Cook to  design a landscape plan and irrigation plan which will get you the most out of these products.  Mike knows where and what to plant for your specific climate and property. Mike knows the importance of planting, maintaining and developing a landscape which will have a positive impact on your water use and give you a long lasting beautiful landscape.

Mike can be reached by phone at (707) 792-1800 or email at

JULY = Smart Irrigation Month

SIM-Logo-ColorWe should have already installed a Smart Irrigation Controller.     It’s not only a greener idea, but these systems are convenient, save water and save money.

Smart Irrigation Systems are automated systems that can monitor sun exposure, temperature, wind,  soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.  They automatically adjust your watering schedule while protecting your landscape investment.

Mike Cook, our Vice President here at Firma Design Group, is a  Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA), #00008031.  He can ensure you will get the most up-to-date, “truly smart” irrigation system, which fits your specific needs.

Being a Certified Landscape Auditor enables one to quantify and analyze landscape irrigation water use, make maintenance recommendations, determine irrigation uniformity and efficiency, develop  irrigation schedules and manage overall irrigation water use.  With a continuing education requirement to maintain one’s license, CLIA’s are well versed on the most up-to-date products and procedures.  To read more, click here.

To  contribute toward a truly sustainable landscape, below are additional considerations to explore to complement your smart irrigation system:

  • Rainwater Harvesting.  By capturing and storing rainwater you will have a supplemental water source for irrigating a landscape.  There are many forms of harvesting rainwater along with local regulations.
  • Green Walls.  A vertical, vegetative “living wall,” a green wall can be freestanding or part of a building and can help reduce the overall temperature of the building, improve the aesthetics and can even aid in water reuse, purification and retention.
  • Fertilizer Injection Systems (fertigation).  Fertigation is derived from the combination of fertilization and irrigation, this allows you to fertilize and irrigate a section of turf in one simple step, making it easier for nutrients to infiltrate plant root zones and eliminating the need for watering above and beyond the irrigation system’s scheduled program run time.
  • Audit your Sprinkler System.  Hire a CLIA to conduct an IMG_7038irrigation audit and uniformity test to verify areas are being watered evenly and appropriately, and make necessary adjustments.


To read more on Smart Irrigation systems, click here.  You can also contact Mike Cook at (707) 792-1800, x103 or by email at