BY: Kathleen Ferris

Smartscape: You Could Have A Better Landscaper

Published Nov 17, 2014

You pay a landscaping company to save you the time and energy it takes to maintain a lovely green space. Twenty years ago, Arizona recognized that landscapers could do more. They could help their customers save money and help cities save water.

With that goal in mind, Tucson Water, AMWUA, UA Cooperative Extension and industry partners launched Smartscape , a low-cost desert-landscape training program for professionals. Since then, Smartscape has expanded from Maricopa and Pima counties to Pinal County and added advanced training dedicated to installing and managing irrigation systems.

A Smartscape trained landscaper can help you create the green space you want by guiding you to low-water plants and trees that match your vision, be it lush or low maintenance. A Smartscape trained landscaper knows where and how to plant trees, shrubs and cactus so they thrive, maintain them properly so they stay healthy, and irrigate them efficiently so you save money. If you like grass, these professionals can maintain turf using the least water possible.

There often are obvious signs that your landscaper needs some training. If you are a homeowner, HOA board member, business owner, or apartment manager perhaps its time to walk the grounds.

  • Are the trees healthy? Are you paying to replace trees too often?
  • Are the plants green and flowering or are bare, brown woody branches creating holes in shrubs and hedges?
  • Does the irrigation system create pools of standing water or muddy bogs? Are you growing mushrooms in your turf or is it dotted with yellow patches?
  • Is your water bill the same as it was five years ago or even higher?


UA Cooperative Extension manages the program and University of Arizona professors, Extension agents, and industry experts teach the classes. Since 1994, more than 1,300 Maricopa County professionals have completed Smartscape training. City, county, and private landscapers have attended Smartscape courses to learn the secrets of successful and beautiful desert gardening. A list of Smartscape trained landscapers is available online .

If you are a professional, it is easy and affordable to sign up for Smartscape training. The 20-hour eight-class course costs $75. Graduates receive a certificate of completion that looks good on any contract proposal.

Landscaping is an investment in your home or business, and a knowledgeable landscaper can make sure it is an investment with a positive return. So ask your landscaper about the health of your landscaping, the efficiency of your irrigation system, and the size of your water bill. Visit for more information about professional landscape training and certification.

For 45 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit