Inland Empire Landscape Contest

The Inland Empire Landscape Contest was launched in an effort to promote water efficient landscaping and to obtain beautiful photographs to inspire homeowners. The contest covers all of western Riverside and San Bernardino counties encompassing the Inland Empire and is offered every other year in the spring of even years.

Rancho Water is a proud sponsor of the Inland Empire Landscape Contest and encourages participation. Changes in residential landscaping and improved management of outside watering can greatly encourage conservation and increase water use efficiency.

The next competition is set for spring 2022. For more contest information, including official rules and submission information, click here

2020 Winners

Rancho Water is excited to announce that three residents within its service area were recognized for their water efficient landscapes! It is the first time in the contest history that one water district swept the top prizes. Congratulations to all our winners and everyone who entered the contest this year. 

1st Place- Contopulos Residence, Temecula        Winnings: $1,000


Jim Contopulos had always had a conventional, lush, green lawn since he bought the home back in 1988. Recently, when he got a new dog, Mr. Contopulos noticed his lawn was getting orange spots where his puppy was using the restroom and he knew he needed to change things up. He had the opportunity to interview someone at the University of California, Riverside regarding landscaping and she provided some great insight. Jim had never dealt with succulents but quickly learned about color, textures, designing and the role the ground plays in a landscape. As a result, he brought in good soil, barrel by barrel. He also knew he wanted a riverbed incorporated into his design, created it with contouring, and lifted the sides of the bed throughout which helps the water absorb and stay without any runoff. His goal from the beginning was to limit the water usage, eliminate weeds and be easy to maintain. The drip system, chosen plants and design has helped tremendously! There is minimal upkeep and he only waters once or twice a week now. He highly recommends transforming anyone’s landscape into a water-saving design such as his.  

2nd Place (tie)- Bustos Residence, Temecula        Winnings: $900


We had a chance to interview Cynthia Bustos and here is what she had to say:

"I have been a lifelong gardener, as was my mom, and her family.  I find a lot of solace getting my hands in dirt and watching things grow.  We have lived in our home for about 10 years.  I had a designer do the hardscape but I planted everything else but the trees.  I chose each tree and I wanted everything we planted to be available to the bees and the birds. Lawns are nothing but a desert to most wildlife.  I knew that I did not want a barren landscape with low water demands but wanted a lush landscape too. I feel that I achieved that with the Grevillea and the Protea family plants.  We have a dry stream which starts in the back and leads to the pool in front.   The paths are all decomposed granite. It is such an honor to receive this prize, I pretty much plant for myself and this just blew me away!" 

2nd Place (tie)- Hartsten Residence, Temecula Winnings:$900


Richard Hartsten first heard about the Inland Empire Landscape Contest through a bill insert. When asked why he applied for the contest, he laughed and said, “Honestly? I applied because my wife kept bugging me about it. She said that our yard looked nice and we have always gotten great compliments on it.” Richard originally had a nice green lawn with shrubs and Rancho Water had a rebate at the time to remove the turf. He installed a drip system and various plants in both the front and back yards. He did all the work himself. He has approximately 75 succulents in the front yard. “I truly enjoy working in the dirt,” he said and continued, “I used to be a General Contractor building homes and would love doing the landscape design so it brought back good memories. It was a very smart decision, not only to save money but also to save water.” Overall, he had lots of fun creating his landscape and encourages others to do the same.