By Jason KUROSU
A bill that would prevent local governments from fining residents for installing artificial turf was approved with a 9-0 vote by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water on Tuesday.
AB 1164, co-authored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, would prohibit cities from banning the installation of water-efficient landscaping, including artificial turf. An incentive program would also be created for homeowners who replace their lawns with drought-resistant plants and/or turf.
“With 60% of residential water going to lawns and other outdoor uses, it’s time for government to stop being part of the problem and start creating, never mind preventing, solutions,” stated Gatto in a press release. “I hope this legislation pushes cities across California to do the right thing and allow residents to do their part to save water.”
Glendale is among the cities that have restrictions on artificial turf, limiting it to backyards.
Glendale considered at a May 19 city council meeting whether to amend the artificial turf ban to allow installation in Glendale’s front lawns over the summer. The council opted to revisit the topic later this summer. The city does offer a rebate program for replacing turf with water-efficient plants.
Turf removal programs have proven almost too successful in the cases of some water agencies.
Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors expanded their turf removal and water conservation program in May in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory drought restrictions. However, MWD had to suspend the turf removal program last week due to an exhaustion of funds.
“We knew that the popularity of the turf program would exhaust the available funds at some point, but even we didn’t predict just how popular turf rebates would become,” stated Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger in a press release. “Metropolitan is proud to have accelerated the movement by hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians to embrace a new outdoor aesthetic and lock in water savings permanently.”
MWD will maintain a waiting list for those interested in turf rebates, should money be freed up from other projects. Rebates are still available from MWD for water-saving devices such as high-efficiency toilets and rotating sprinkler nozzles.
Conservation measures, including use of artificial turf, appear to have been effective for the Crescenta Valley Water District.
CVWD recently posted a record low in June water usage, with an average of 3.35 million gallons per day (MGD).
According to a CVWD press release, June’s conservation numbers were the lowest for water usage in the month of June in 45 years. The previous June low was 3.58 MGD in 1976.
CVWD Program Specialist Christy Scott said that the historic level of conservation cannot be traced back solely to turf, but rather to a collective effort from CVWD customers.
“There’s been such an increase in public awareness. Everybody knows they have to learn to use water wisely,” said Scott.
According to Scott, CVWD has distributed around $450,000 in turf rebates, with another $410,000 in rebates for approved projects currently in progress.