Grass might be making a comeback in California. California’s punishing five-going-on-six-year drought that triggered mandatory water restrictions by the state’s governor (a 25 percent reduction) and the drought shaming and anti-lawn campaigns (“Brown is the New Green”) that followed caused thousands to tear up their lawns.
In fact, the state spent $350 million on rebates for those who tore out their turf. And the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California doubled its rebate from $1 to $2 per square foot for home and business owners to remove grass.
But the panic to drive out lawns only seemed to have gone so far. Some homeowners who replaced lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping hated the result: gravel with succulents, yarrow and other plants. And the other alternative — artificial turf — lost a little luster when Los Angeles’ department of water and power was caught watering its fake grass to wash out dog urine, saving none of the water it was supposed to in the first place. On top of that, the state relaxed its 25 percent overall water use cut in June.
In September, figures still showed an 18.3 percent dip in water use by homes and businesses compared to the same month in 2013, a slide from the 26.2 percent achieved in September 2015, but still conservation.
While water woes persist, “deep down inside people appreciate the recreational and aesthetic value of lawns,” Southland Sod Farm owner Jergen Gramckow told The Guardian. Gramckow, who was delivering 100 lawns daily across Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego just this fall, refers to turf’s environmental benefits, including absorbing gases, dust and other airborne pollutants, cooling air temperatures, providing oxygen and greatly reducing soil erosion.
In the meantime, there’s no end in sight to drought in California. One study warned that drought could become the state’s “new normal.”
And this winter significant droughts are already in place for 45 percent of the contiguous U.S. — the worst of it being in California, the Southeast and the Northeast.
What do you think is the future of turfgrass and lawns in regions prone to drought? What alternatives, if any, can work to ease water use and please customers?