Water Restrictions Trickle Down to Homeowners

Although we haven’t had many showers this winter, there’s a good chance that we’ll get a sprinkle or two in the coming days. Good news for us this week, but bad news when we consider our state’s drought, which is nearing crisis levels now in its fourth straight year. For the first time in California history, with another winter with record low snowfalls, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered mandatory water use reductions – forcing the state’s 400 local water supply agencies to impose a collective 25 percent reduction in usage. His executive order, signed April 1, tasks local water agencies with the responsibility of monitoring and imposing each jurisdiction’s restrictions. So, it appears the water wars will continue – and the trickle down will eventually impact homeowners.

At a press conference earlier this month when the governor announced the controversial rations, he was quoted as saying, “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”

Ugg! Guess it’s possible to achieve the American Dream of the cute house with the white picket fence … just kiss goodbye that beautifully landscaped patch of lush, green grass! It appears that in California, ‘Brown is the new Green.’

It is proposed by the state water board that some cities will see up to a 36 percent water reduction mandate, while others will sit much lower at 8 to 10 percent – target cuts to meet the state’s overall need to cut usage by 25 percent overall.

Some cities, like Hillsborough or unincorporated parts of Redwood City stand to see greater target cuts, while those cities with less usage such as Daly City or Foster City, will be forced to cut fewer percentages. However, property owners in all of San Mateo County can brace not only for state-mandated usage reductions but also for rate increases, as its water supplier, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, has announced a 28 percent rate increase for sometime in July.

So, what should you do to keep your property looking beautiful amid California’s water wars?

Here are five water-efficient landscape ideas that will spiff up your property without needing to ‘Go Grass.’

landscaping without grass

  1. Pave, pave and pave again. Using pavers, create a design with several colors to distract the eye. Or use stacked flagstone to create a usable and appealing front walkway. Add some drought-resistant ground cover and drought-tolerant plants to complete the look.
  2. Try gravel paving. Use crushed granite, gravel or small rocks to take up a space that would otherwise be covered in sod. Make curved pathways or two colors to provide a contrast.
  3. Use multi-tiered flowerbeds to create an eye-catching landscape. The different levels of plantings will allow for the water to be re-used with each tier. These beds can be built around a fountain, birdbath or breezeway to give your look some contrast. Plant low-water perennials and shrubs in your containers.
  4. Try turf. Artificial grass has come a long way. It can give you that lush, cool and green feeling even though it’s fake. Artificial grass lawns are said to save some customers as much as 70 percent on water bills.
  5. Use a different type of ground cover that will extend your distance and still provide a green and eye-catching look. Try a mix of hearty mosses or Blue Star Creeper groundcover, which can take heavy foot traffic and still blossom those pretty tiny flowers.

If you’re having trouble getting started, you’re not alone. Check out the EPA’s Water Sense Interactive Water Budget Tool at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/water_budget/application.html.