Yank the grass

Californians should opt for water-conserving landscaping over lawns

Those who haven’t bought into water conservation over the past couple of years likely will be more dedicated to preserving this natural resource in the coming months. That’s because overconsumption of municipal water now comes with a slap on the wrist in the form of a so-called drought surcharge, as outlined by Cal Water Services Co., at the direction of the California Water Resources Control Board, whose goal is sustaining current water supplies amid the dearth of rainfall in the parched state.

Here in Chico, we’re being asked to reduce our water usage by 32 percent, based on what we used in 2013. That’s a tall order, one that will require considerable effort. Some folks are already savvy to the ways of reducing their consumption; little things like turning the faucet off while brushing their teeth, flushing the toilet less often, taking quick showers, etc.

Others are heading outdoors to the yard, making a larger dent in their annual usage by pulling out water-intensive greenery and old-school sprinklers. According the state water board, between 50 percent and 80 percent of the average household’s water consumption is used outdoors. And half of that total is used to water lawns and gardens.

As is noted in CN&R intern Ernesto Rivera’s Newsline in this issue (see “Hasta la vista, lawns,” page 11), professional landscapers and irrigation specialists say locals are increasingly wondering what to do about their landscaping. They’re telling them about water-saving outdoor plumbing and something referred to as the “new California aesthetic,” which, when done well, is actually quite lovely.

That new look is composed of drought-tolerant plants fed by efficient drip irrigation. It eliminates the lawn—the longtime popular feature in front- and backyards the nation over. For some folks, the thought of ripping up turf is hard to swallow. But this historic drought requires a new way of thinking. Just remember: We’re all in this together.