The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners voted last week to make a successful program more monetarily enticing — adding money to homeowners’ pockets who end up replacing their grass lawns with drought tolerant landscaping.
“We are very excited to offer our customers increased funding for their Lawn to Garden projects,” Board President John Allen said in a statement. “Removing water-thirsty grass from our homes and businesses is one of the most effective and inexpensive things we can do here in Southern California to permanently strengthen the reliability of our water supplies.”
The Water Department’s Lawn to Garden program was founded in 2010. Since then, there have been 850 landscape projects funded by it. Previously, applicants received $2.50 per square foot of landscaping transformed — the latest vote will up that to $3. Applicants can receive the money for up to 1,000 square feet. The program has won national recognition, and more than 1,000 projects will be completed near the end of the year, department spokesman Matthew Veeh said.
“At the time (it was started), we had been coming off a multi-year drought, both locally and where we get our imported water from,” he said. “There were a number of things that were constraining our imported water supply. Really, we were looking for a solution to strengthen our local water supply and viability. This is one of the easiest things to do, and it was the cheapest thing to do. We though the best thing was to get rid of grass.”
The Water Department is working on meeting a 2020 per capita mandate for water use reductions.
“It’s a difficult situation because technically we’re not in a drought right now,” Veeh said. “But the challenge is to recognize that even if we are not in a drought, we still need to cut back.”
And currently, California just ended its driest January and February on record — so those conditions may be creeping back. Long Beach only has received 6 inches of rain this fiscal year (July to July) so far. March is the last month when major rainfall traditionally comes. Normally the area receives 12 inches each fiscal year.
The Lawn to Garden Program is a joint effort between the Water Department and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Veeh said a challenge for the program is convincing and showing people what can be done in lieu of a green grass lawn. Just a few of the thousands of plant options for the program include Callistemon Little John, Compact Gold Coins Asteriscus Maritimus, Coral Bells, Lion’s Tail, Mexican Bush Sage, Pride of Madeira, Rock Purslane and California Lilac.
The Second Annual Long Beach Lawn to Garden Tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,Saturday, May 18. More than 30 homes will be on display to show off results of the program. To RSVP for the free tour, visit www.lblawntogarden.com.
“This is a visual signal and it is constantly out there in the community reminding people of the benefits,” Veeh said. “There are thousands and thousands of different plants that you can choose from that are beautiful and perfect for landscaping.”