Grading and Drainage
Mark areas where grading and contour changes are to be made.
Grading may be used to add interest to a landscape and to direct drainage away from hardscaped areas. When planning grading and contour changes, make sure that modifications are made in accordance with the rules established by your city for on-site water retention and proper placement of the backflow preventer. If you need clarification, contact your city's water conservation office . Be a good neighbor. Don't change the grade in your yard so that it redirects water into your neighbor's yard. Also, avoid making changes that would direct water toward the foundation of your house.

Low water use plants and rip-rap stabilize the slope around this back yard pool.
Photo credit: Marc McKeown, McKeown, Inc. E.L.P.

Make a Wish List
Draw Existing Site
Learn About Plants
Learn About Materials
Draw Preliminary Plan
Incorporate Plants
Design Irrigation System
Draw Final Design
Prepare Cost Estimate
At this point, you also may want to consider water harvesting opportunities. You can use existing contours to collect rainwater for use by landscape plants or you can regrade part of the lot to create catchment areas for rainwater. Rooftop runoff can be directed through gutters and channels toward trees and plants.

It is a good idea to assess current drainage patterns before making any grading changes. Here are a few simple ways to identify drainage patterns:
  • Put a piece of straight, flat lumber, such as a two-by-four, on a spot in your yard. Place a level on top of the board. This will tell you the direction of the slope. Repeat this procedure at various spots in your yard.
  • Inspect your yard after a rain to identify spots that accumulate water. You can accomplish the same effect by running a lawn sprinkler over the yard until the ground is moistened and water begins to collect.
  • Put a garden hose at the highest point in your yard. Run the water long enough to determine the direction of the flow and to identify where ponding occurs.
  • To maximize water harvesting potential, identify the locations where rain water falls from the roof. Observe the direction of the flow after runoff from the roof reaches the ground.

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Additional Resources:
Rainwater HarvestingGray Water or Rainwater System Tax Credit
Using Gray Water at HomeRainwater Harvesting
Mulch & Soil

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