Site Inventory and Analysis for Water Wise Landscapes (experienced)

The site inventory and analysis are steps in the design process used to assess existing conditions and determine how or if they will or should change. Avoid the temptation to start designing until these steps are completed.

For the more experienced gardener, a thorough site inventory and analysis will provide a solid base for creating a more functional and beautiful landscape.


A site inventory is simply a list of elements that currently exist on the property. Elements that exist on adjacent properties should also be considered if they impact the future design.

The location of inventoried elements can be recorded on a base map or simple plot plan. Arrows and other symbols can be used to indicate elements such as views, wind, and sun.


The site analysis is an evaluation or judgment of features on the site. Once all of the elements on the property are identified, the pros and cons of each element are then evaluated. Often, the site inventory and analysis phase of design occur at the same time.

Questions to ask in the analysis phase include:

  • Determine opportunities and constraints.
  • Is it good or bad?
  • What should be changed?
  • How does the area ‘feel’ or how do you react to the condition of the site

Things to consider when analyzing for water conservation in site design

  • Orientation of the house and other structures
  • Hot and shady spots ¬†(LINK to Identify Sun and Shade Areas article)
  • Slope
  • Location of practical turf areas
  • Irrigation and hydrozoning

Critical information that should be collected:


The overall average of long term weather patterns includes temperature, precipitation, amount of sunshine, winds speed and direction, days above freezing, weather extremes, and local   geography.  Information can be found at state climate center websites.

Wind and Precipitation

  • Determine the seasonal prevailing winds and precipitation patterns


  • Small areas that are warmer or cooler than surrounding areas based on their location adjacent to structures, topographic features, and plant orientation. For instance, a depression in the landscape might create an area where snow might take longer to melt in the spring.

Solar angles

  • Diurnal (daily changes)
  • Seasonal changes

Other key elements that should be inventoried and analyzed:

  • Existing structures
  • Existing Vegetation
  • Geology
  • Topography
  • Soil type and drainage
  • Utilities
  • Structures
  • Views
  • Sound
  • Wildlife
  • Circulation (paths, movement through the landscape)
  • Any other condition that would affect the design

Additional Resources:


Colorado: Xeriscaping: Creative Landscaping
Colorado: Xeriscaping: Retrofit Your Yard


Florida: Landscape Design: Ten Important Things to Consider
Georgia: Xeriscape: a guide to developing a water-wise landscape
South Carolina: Xeriscape: Landscape Water Conservation in the Southeast