Hold the Concrete! And the Fake Turf!

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As some of you may have read in the Los Angeles Times’ ongoing coverage of the drought, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) recently sent out letters to the top 1% of residential water users. Not surprisingly, the majority of these excessive water users are located in upscale neighborhoods featuring expansive (and still green) lawns, such as Brentwood, Bel-Air, Pacific Palisades, Encino, and Studio City.

According to LADWP, the letters have been working. At least 100 customers contacted LADWP to follow-up. One of those customers, featured in the article, discussed his new plan to replace 5,000 sq. ft. of grass with artificial turf and replace plants with concrete. More concrete?!?

Los Angeles already has plenty of cement and other impermeable surfaces. Along with the clear implications that a lack of plant life has on our ongoing atmospheric carbon problems, all this cement means our storm water (when it does come) is simply washed off residential properties into storm drains and out to the ocean. Doesn’t seem like the best idea for an area already struggling to maintain an affordable and stable potable water system, right? Sounds like a missed opportunity to recharge aquifers and build a more local, affordable, and sustainable water system.

Worse yet, when residents and business fail to capture storm water, that water picks up loads of pollutants on the way to rivers and the ocean. For more information check out the State Water Resources Control Board’s “What the Heck is Storm Water” available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyH02NjyfPA

Some of you may be asking, “Well, what about the artificial turf?” Interestingly enough, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District allows artificial turfs in its cash-for-grass rebate program. The problem is that these petroleum-based grass replacements are typically not permeable to the extent of natural landscapes – meaning that they act much like concrete surfaces in terms of storm water capture. Plus, the artificial turfs produce surface temperatures magnitudes higher than natural grass or concrete, greatly adding to our urban environment’s heat-island effect.

So, please inform your neighbors, family, and friends to focus on more than rebates and water usage numbers. Our environment needs more than a quick-fix. Let’s take this opportunity to come up with multifaceted solutions.

Our Surfrider friends’ guide to Ocean Friendly Gardens is a great place to get ideas for replacing lawns. Pass on the following link to anyone you know that still has a green lawn out front: http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/ocean-friendly-gardens

-Jeffrey Van Name, Law Fellow

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