Water Wise Energy Smart

Supporting Fort Huachuca's water and energy conservation efforts through outreach and education



Fort Huachuca is located in the upper reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert. Vegetation on Fort Huachuca ranges from semi-desert grasslands at lower elevations, to scrub oak, pinon-juniper woodlands and evergreen forests at higher elevations.  Fort Huachuca is noted for biological diversity of plant and animal species not commonly found in other areas of the United States.

The average annual precipitation on Fort Huachuca is 15.6 inches, occurring mostly from July through mid-September, with some additional moisture falling during the wnter season. Average annual snowfall is 6.9 inches. Elevation ranges from 4,600 feet at the east entrance of the fort to over 9,000 feet at the top of the mountains.  Average daily temperatures range from 58.7 Fahrenheit in January to 90.7 Fahrenheit in June.  Due to the area's higher elevation and dry climate, there will typically be a 25-30 degree Fahrenheit variation between the daytime high and the nighttime low.  


Low water use landscaping on Fort Huachuca


Landscaping on Fort Huachuca



In areas with less than 20 inches of rainfall per year, such as the built up areas of Fort Huachuca in the lower elevations, the soils are alkaline. This is due to the calcium carbonate that is not leached through the soil because of our limited rainfall. In addition, Arizona soils contain very low levels of nitrogen (a macronutrient needed by plants in order to thrive) and organic matter (the remains of plants and animals).


Plant Selection

The best reason for landscaping with native and non-native adapted plants is that they require much less care and maintenance than most exotics. Adapted plants are plants found in other parts of the world that have similar climate conditions. A native plant is a plant native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Most of the non-native plants that people attempt to grow are just not adapted to our soils and climate. Plants that are not accustomed to high temperatures, low humidity, and alkaline soils struggle in our climate. This means that the gardener is constantly fighting with nature to keep the plants alive. Native plants have chosen this area to grow in because they like the local environment. They thrive in alkaline soils and have developed mechanisms to deal with the heat and dryness.


Waterwise Plants for Sierra Vista area (Click for list)





Planting and Soil Amendments

Although Ft. Huachuca soils are lacking in organic matter, when planting native and adapted plants, one generally does not need to add soil amendments such as manure, fertilizer and compost. Adding organic material changes the soil structure from the surrounding native soil. Research shows that roots within a planting hole where organic material has been added will circle around within the hole rather than venture out into the harder to penetrate surrounding soil.


Water Retention Amendments

This type of product is long lasting and easy to use. It can be used for both indoor and outdoor plants to increase the soil's water holding capacity.  These products absorb water and then slowly release it back into the soil.  Use of this material will allow for a decrease in the needed watering frequency. In undisturbed conditions it may last 8-10 years. 

In general, one pound of the water retention amendment will absorb up to 48 gallons of rainwater and 20 to 35 gallons of tap water, depending on the salt content. The product can be applied wet or dry but dry granules are generally easier to use.  After application, be sure to water the granules enough to fully fill them with water (hydrate). When hydrated, the granules look like chunks of gelatin about 1/2 inch in diameter.  Always mix the dry granules evenly though the soil.  Follow the manufacturer's directions closely and do not over apply. This product can be found at plant nurseries and home improvement centers.  



Mulches are organic (bark or wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, compost, hay, straw) or inorganic (gravel, decorative rocks, sand, decomposed granite) materials that can be used to cover the soil around the root zones of plants.

Mulching prevents moisture loss from evaporation, therefore extending periods between waterings by days and sometimes for even longer periods. By shading the soil, mulches inhibit weed growth. Weeds that do get through are easy to pull and the number of weeds needing to be pulled will decrease over time. Organic mulches help to keep plants cooler, prevent rainwater runoff, and keep soil from splashing onto plant leaves, thereby reducing certain diseases.

A good rule of thumb is to apply mulch at least 2-3 inches deep around the root zone of trees, shrubs and flowerbeds. Remember to keep mulch 2-3 inches away from trunks and stems. 

Weed fabric may be used under mulch as an added measure to keep weeds down. Do not use black plastic as it does not allow for the exchange of water and oxygen that plant roots require.

Click here for a PDF brochure on Using Mulch on Fort Huachuca


Turf on Fort Huachuca

Bermuda grass is the main type of turf grass found on Fort Huachuca.  It is a warm season, low maintenance, durable grass that remains green through much of the summer due to natural rainfall.  New Military Family Housing uses Xeriscape landscaping in the front yards and limited turf in back yards for family and pet use.  

To further reduce the Fort's water consumption, the golf course and Chaffey Field are irrigated using treated effluent water.

Click here for a PDF brochure of Ft. Huachuca Lawn Seeding and Care Guide

Click here for a PDF brochure of the Simplified Water Policy Table