The era of green lawns in CA is one step closer to gone!
Today, the CA Water Commission passed regulations requiring that new commercial and residential developments limit turf grass to 25% of their landscapes - drought-tolerant plants must be used for the rest. This is a part of the Governor's executive order in April in response to our historic drought. Here's the full article in the SacBee.
Exceptions include instances where grass serves a function - event hosting, sports, etc. But companies must demonstrate the need for this use. In the words of Nancy Vogel, the spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Agency, "You can't really turf because it looks pretty. You have to prove that you're using it for weddings or gatherings or whatever".
This means that CA is getting closer to being on the same page that we are with landscaping. Plants aren't just decorations. They should have functions. Gathering space is one. Habitat for the myriad native species that once thrived in this area is another.
Let's not forget this function component when removing our lawns. There are plenty of alternatives to lawns for reducing water use, like gravel or mulch. But what's the function?
The vast majority of drought-tolerant plants used in landscaping are non-native, or even man-made varietals. They are bred to be inhospitable for insects and to remain static in appearance. Is this any different than a plastic plant in terms of function?
If landscapes can have functions, what are they? 54% of the land in the lower 48 has been converted into urban and suburban areas. Landscaping companies and nurseries determine the plant community in this majority of our nation's land. If we can replace these landscapes with native species of plants, and allow them to be nibbled on by insects (which turn into butterflies and bird food), imagine the potential for the land to function. This is the new frontier of conservation. Let's be proactive and think beyond reducing water: let's make the new front yard functional. Replacing lawns offers an incredible opportunity to rethink and reshape California - and the rest of the nation - into a real ecosystem.