Thursday, September 2, 2010

A farewell to lawns [From Zev's Blog]

Earlier this year, the Long Beach Water Department started a program to encourage its residents to destroy their grass lawns. It wasn’t part of some vast government plot against green thumbs. Instead, the agency was hoping to persuade folks to go green by growing a different kind of green out in the yard. And the city was willing to spread around some greenbacks–$1 for every square foot of grass replaced with sustainable landscape or “hardscape” such as brick or tile—to get people to take the plunge into conservation-friendly landscaping.
Turns out they didn’t need much persuading. Within an hour of the application process opening in April, Long Beach had received 120 project requests—enough to completely wipe out the $250,000 initially budgeted for the program. The agency now has expanded the funding to $360,000 to meet the demands of everyone on the waiting list, and expects to save 40 million gallons of water over the next ten years.
Similar programs have been offered from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and now customers of the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts are getting a chance to join the break-up-with-your-lawn movement, too.
The Cash for Grass program (it’s nothing illicit, just kind of a “Cash for Clunkers” project aimed at your old sod instead your old Saab) will provide cash rebates of $1 per square foot to those who replace their water-guzzling grass lawns with water-efficient landscaping. One can expect to save 55 gallons of water per year for every square foot of grass replaced. Information on the program ishere, along with an application to print out.
The county Waterworks program began on August 20th and is slated to end on January 31, 2011, or until the $250,000 allotted for the program runs out. All Waterworks customers, in communities including Malibu, Marina del Rey, Topanga, Acton, Val Verde, Kagel Canyon and the Antelope Valley, are eligible to take part.
But think twice about delaying, given the program’s success in Long Beach.
Even Matthew Lyons, director of planning & water conservation for the Long Beach Water Department, was surprised at what he calls the “overwhelming response” to the Lawn to Garden Incentive Program in his city.
Replacing lawn with drought-tolerant plants doesn’t just save money; it also sets up a whole new way of keeping up with the Joneses, as these Long Beach lawn makeovers make clear. (And drought-tolerant doesn’t necessarily mean drab, as these plants colorfully demonstrate.) Most of all, the no-lawn movement acknowledges the reality of scarce water resources in the region.
“Getting rid of grass lawns is important for Southern California as we look into the future,” Lyons said, “because the fact is that in 20 years if people still keep their grass lawns, there won’t be water.”