A lush green lawn accompanied by a range of vibrant flowers in bloom and lofty trees overhead sounds like the beginning of an inviting dream. But there’s something wrong with this picture. No, it’s not that you’re missing a strawberry-flavored margarita and a hammock. … California is in its most severe drought in decades and that lush green lawn hurts our collective ability to save enough water for basic needs.
Eight months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency and asked residents to cut water use by 20 percent. We have, however, fallen woefully short of this conservation goal. Many people continue to use water, as though there is no shortage.
But there is. And it’s a very real problem with very real repercussions.
Our drought is such a threat that the Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency regulation to issue fines of up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on their lawns, landscaping and car washing.
Water conservation is a community effort. Water agencies are offering incentives such as irrigation control devices and rebates that can help you be more resourceful, and the state Legislature has introduced legislation to help homeowners reduce water waste.
In Oxnard and Ventura, local water districts are offering rebates to replace select household appliances such as high-efficiency clothes washers and low-flow toilets and showerheads.
In Santa Barbara and Oxnard, residents can participate in the Smart Landscaping Rebate program, which offers rebates on approved irrigation equipment and landscape materials for all water users, whether residential or commercial. From 2009 to 2012 this program has helped properties save a total of 7.2 million gallons of water a year. That’s not only more water saved, but more money saved.
Graywater is another untapped resource that can be very successful in reducing water consumption. Instead of using treated drinking water for irrigation and flushing toilets, we can save that water for future use. All water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called graywater. Dish, shower, sink and laundry water comprise up to 80 percent of residential “waste” water. This water may be reused in one’s front and back yards for irrigation use or even to flush toilets. As part of the same program, the city of Santa Barbara can help cover half the materials cost of a laundry-to-landscape graywater system. This is the easiest system to install and does not require a building permit. A Santa Barbara nonprofit, the Sweetwater Collaborative, even holds hands-on workshops so people can learn how to put a graywater system in, or host one on their own property. I believe my constituents in Ventura County desperately need options like this to help transform their landscaping, capture graywater and conserve the water we might desperately need to make it past next year. It’s only together that we can make a difference.
For residents living under the regulation of a Homeowners Association (HOA) who are typically forced to comply with HOA conditions and restrictions to keep their lawns green or face a potentially hefty fine, there is good news. Recently passed legislation will make it easier for homeowners to switch to low-water landscaping, despite some HOA rules and threats to punish people for letting their lawns die.
This year, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced Assembly Bill 2104 to broaden the existing law that forbids HOA rules that prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, the use of low-water plants. AB 2104 makes it clear that an HOA shouldn’t stand in the way of homeowners who want to swap turf for low-water plants. Another important bill to protect homeowners during the drought is SB 992 by state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Fresno, which was recently signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. SB 992 prohibits HOAs from fining homeowners for underwatering their lawns to conserve water. These bills, coupled with other water reduction efforts, will help result in long-term savings and make a true difference.
It’s time to take pride in a new image of landscaping: one of either sprawling golden lawns or, better yet, drought-resistant, California-native landscape filled with yellow poppy flowers, aromatic sage and lush purple lupin. It is crucial that we all do our part to conserve California’s water, and thereby ensure California’s future.
Take advantage of local programs near you and visit my website for more information www.asm.ca.gov/Williams.