The grass is always browner when officials have Los Angeles homeowners turning off their sprinklers during the sizzling days of summer.
Starting June 1, the L.A. Dept. of Water and Power imposed mandatory restrictions aimed at reducing the city’s water use by 15%. Residents were ordered to use their sprinklers only on Mondays and Thursdays or be slapped with higher utility bills.
Nearly two months later, it’s clear that suburban lawns are dying of thirst in the San Fernando Valley where folks are complying as temperatures climb past 100 degrees in July and August.
“If you look around, everyone’s lawns are drying up and dying and it looks terrible,” complains Cherie Sanders, a resident of an upscale gated community in Calabasas. “It’s not fair that we have to shut off the sprinklers when golf courses and parks are using so much water and don’t have to comply.”
Flooded with complaints by ratepayers who have yet to convert to drought-resistant succulents and wild grasses, the city is loosening the law. Parks, cemeteries, colleges, school districts, athletic fields and at least five golf courses have been given the green light to irrigate the grounds on any day of the week until the law can be rewritten.
Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager of the Dept. of Recreation and Parks, told the L.A. Times parks deserve special consideration because they serve entire communities. Apparently, parks were also showing signs of distress from the restrictions.
“I couldn’t just come up with a picnic basket and jump on your front lawn,” he said, adding his own North Hollywood lawn has turned brown. “As people’s lawns die, they’re going to need a refuge and we can provide that.”
The DWP’s Board of Commissioners is considering a proposal to alter its watering law for larger property owners (three acres or more to landscape) to hydrate more frequently, as long as they reduce their water use by 20%.
Mukri told the Times his agency has made strides in cutting consumption by 40% over the last two years and will continue installing drought-friendly irrigation systems. He notes that the parks being given a break, such as popular Griffith Park and five city golf courses, already use recycled water and are therefore allowed to water on a daily basis.
Other officials have said that if the greens die on the golf courses the replacement could be very costly.
But what the pretty lawns of the average homeowner?
“I think the city needs to follow its own rules,” said David Coffin, a member of the Westchester-Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council.
Coffin, who is also a candidate for state Assembly, said the city would take its conservation policies more seriously if it experienced their effects firsthand.
“As much as I hate to say it, the only way to force them to address the overall water situation is to let those things turn brown,” he said.
Last year, the DWP banned watering between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and prohibited restaurants from serving water unless a customer requested a glass.
A council vote is not expected for a few weeks.