Changes are coming to historical Capitol Park this spring as the California Department of General Services (DGS) modifies the landscaping choices and park maintenance practices to continue to conserve water during the ongoing drought.

DGS, which is responsible for maintaining state facilities including the State Capitol grounds, will remove more than 76,000 square feet of lawn over the coming weeks while also transforming other areas throughout the park with low-water, regionally-appropriate landscape.

In total, the changes to the park will generate over 1.6 million gallons of water savings annually, once complete.

“The world around us is changing,” said DGS Director Daniel C. Kim, “It is critical that we adapt Capitol Park to our state’s new, more arid climate. We want to demonstrate to all Californians’ how to preserve the historic trees and other beautiful plants in the park while also saving water wherever we can.”

Among the actions being taken by DGS to save water at Capitol Park are:

 Re-plumbing the park to utilize recycled water from the state’s downtown Sacramento center heating and cooling plant for landscape irrigation. Governor Brown’s fiscal year 2016-17 budget plan put forth a proposal for consideration by the legislature of an allocation of $1.7 million to provide for this reclaimed water system to which (if approved) could be up and running by 2018.

 Removal of 36,400 square feet of turf grass to be replaced with decomposed granite or walk-on mulch, which will not be irrigated.

 Renovation of 34,329 square feet of lawn area used for large gatherings on the state Capitol’s north, south and west sides. The footprint of these sites will be reduced by 50 percent through the introduction of pervious pavers around the perimeter. The smaller grass areas that remain would be replanted with a new water-saving grass varietal that uses 30 percent less water than traditional turf grass.

 Replacement of another 14,285 square feet of traditional turf grass with buffalograss. This replacement would be targeted for areas underlaid by tree roots but with less foot traffic. The varietal of buffalograss is a low-care grass option bred specifically for California’s climate by University of California researchers.

 The smaller grass area outside the Capitol’s east entrance will be converted to a drought-tolerant demonstration garden with design created in concert with the California Native Plant Society.

 Performing a park-wide irrigation audit to identify sprinkler heads that can be capped or removed altogether to save water and avoid unnecessary runoff.

 Installation of educational signage to alert community members and visitors of the changes to the park.

 Maintaining irrigation schedules and run times across the park at the minimum levels necessary to keep the park tree canopy alive.

 Fountains and decorative water features on Capitol grounds –including the trout pond, rose garden fountain and fountain in the traffic circle near the Jesse Unruh Building – will remain off.

For maps, plant specifications and further details on the changes planned for Capitol Park, visit


Capitol Park – established in 1860 – is the oldest arboretum west of the Mississippi and an important part of California’s vitality and history. The 40-acre park is home to 968 trees – some more than 100 years old – and hundreds of other plantings with historical and cultural significance.

Following Governor Brown’s January 2014 drought emergency proclamation, the Department of General Services placed a moratorium on all watering of turf and decorative plantings in those areas of the park that do not overlay tree roots.

This action, while drastic, resulted in immediate water savings. The amount of water used at the State Capitol has been reduced by 39.71 percent from 2013 (the last year before the drought was declared) to the end of 2015. In terms of total water use, this equates to more than 15 million gallons saved annually.

However, this action undertaken in the early days of the drought crisis was never meant to be a permanent solution for how the landscape of Capitol Park is maintained.

The solutions outlined above are part of DGS efforts to “Fix it for Good” at state facilities, including the State Capitol.