New Report Shows Businesses Can Contribute to Community and Watershed Resilience Through Sustainable Landscapes

February 5, 2019, Oakland, Calif. – In recent weeks, rains have deluged California, flooding low-lying areas and polluting nearby waterways. But just over two years ago, the state was gripped by the worst drought on record. With climate change, these water extremes are becoming more common and intense. A new study from the Pacific Institute, in collaboration with California Forward, the CEO Water Mandate, and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, finds there are significant opportunities for the business community in the Santa Ana River Watershed to improve local climate resilience by investing in sustainable landscape practices. Although focused on the Santa Ana River Watershed, the study’s findings are applicable to urbanized communities everywhere.

“In California, climate change is producing rapid shifts from very wet to very dry conditions,” says report author Heather Cooley, Director of Research at the Pacific Institute. “Our communities, marked by vast expanses of thirsty lawns and impermeable pavement, are ill-equipped to handle these pressures. The business community can help improve watershed health and local climate resilience by adopting sustainable landscape practices. This is a highly visual way for businesses to showcase their commitment to sustainability and can promote similar actions by others.”

“Business and civic leaders are ready to take action to make our communities and watersheds more sustainable and resilient. This report illuminates the path forward for multi-benefit landscape investments to support these goals,” according to Jim Mayer, CEO of California Forward.

Most efforts to advance sustainable landscapes thus far have focused on residential parcels, yet commercial and industrial properties are disproportionately landscaped with lawns and have large impervious surfaces. Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed finds that properly managed landscaping projects on these properties could improve water quality, flood management, and water reliability. These projects could also reduce energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, improve ecosystem and human health, promote economic activity, and enhance community resilience.

The study includes an interactive mapping tool that allows users to explore the potential benefits of sustainable landscaping practices in areas across the Santa Ana River Watershed.

Read the Executive Summary here.

Read the full report here.


The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that creates and advances solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water challenges through interdisciplinary research and by partnering with a variety of stakeholders. Founded in 1987 and based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future.