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Drought may end up changing the image of Californian lawns


Officials are telling residents of Southern California that brown or yellow lawns are ok. — Mike Fox/Unsplash pic via ETX Studio

Officials are telling residents of Southern California that brown or yellow lawns are ok. — Mike Fox/Unsplash pic via ETX Studio

Monday, 23 May 2022 9:37 PM MYT

LOS ANGELES, May 23 — New water restrictions will go into effect in much of Southern California starting June 1, 2022 due to the drought affecting the western United States. From that date on, six million residents will be only able to water their gardens a maximum of once a week in order to limit water consumption and avoid depletion of the reserves. The first target of these drastic measures: lawns, one of the iconic symbols of comfortable suburban America.

To combat the drought, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a major provider of drinking water in the region, has issued new rules regarding water use in the state. The water regulating agency is asking local water suppliers to require residents to keep their outdoor water use to a minimum starting June 1.

From now on, districts can choose to limit watering to once a week or restrict clients to using no more than 80 US gallons of water per person per day (about 300 litres). The most stringent requirement to date, according to the Washington Post. “We are in an emergency. I call this a natural disaster,” Adel Hagekhalil of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California told the American media.

Tough for some users but necessary. However, this limit still represents a high level of water consumption, compared to the 50-100 litres of water per person per day the World Health Organisation says is necessary for meeting basic needs and hygiene levels.

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An end to lush green lawns?

In order to maintain the green vegetation of Southern California’s public parks and gardens, they need to be watered regularly, while private lawns and gardens remain a status symbol. According to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 30 per cent of a household’s daily water use goes to watering the outdoors.

The new measures have residents worried, the Washington Post reports. “Since the restriction warnings began, customers have bombarded the Las Virgenes water office — one of 26 public water agencies that operate under the Metropolitan Water District — with angry phone calls.” So executives from area agencies are speaking out, trying to inform citizens that it’s okay for lawns to not always be “green” and “lush,” that brown and yellow lawns are expected this year. According to the LA Times most agencies are looking at assigning a particular day to customers in particular districts. The publication also mentions talk of a sprinkler run time of about eight minutes.

Grass alternatives

California has been experiencing periods of dryness and drought for hundreds of years. But in the last decade, conditions have become significantly worse. The state is struggling with water shortages to such an extent that these restrictions haven’t been the first and are nearly guaranteed not to be the last.

Little by little, some residents are seeking out alternatives. Some are choosing to replace their lawns with artificial turf, while others are investing in machines that turn air into water, so that they can continue to provide water to their homes and moisture to their lawns. Some who can’t contemplate giving up their little patch of green are even choosing to paint the grass. In 2014, The Atlantic reported that companies were showing up at front doors and offering to paint residents’ lawns amidst a drought and water restrictions.

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While such original alternatives exist, authorities believe that if the situation is not better by September, outdoor water use could be banned entirely. — ETX Studio



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