California Bans Watering Grass at Certain Businesses

A bill signed into law Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom will now ban certain businesses from watering its grass in an effort to reduce water usage.

The bill is modeled after the State placed similar rules on commercial, industrial and government agencies from using drinking water for grass deemed “non-functional” in 2022.

Opinion: Say Goodbye to Grass That’s Only There for Looks. California Can’t Afford to Waste Water

California was so dry and its water supply so precarious by May 2022 that the State Water Resources Control Board issued an emergency order: No drinkable water could be used to irrigate grass that had no function other than to look nice.

The regulation does not apply to residential lawns, although they were already turning brown due to local restrictions on sprinkler use.

It does apply to all purely ornamental lawns — “nonfunctional turf,” in regulatory parlance — at commercial, industrial and institutional sites, such as shopping centers and corporate headquarters.

That order was recently extended for another year.

It’s time for California to follow Nevada’s lead and permanently remove decorative turf.

To be clear, we’re talking only about nonfunctional turf. That means grass that no one walks on, except to mow it. It doesn’t apply to playing fields, picnic grounds, parks, meeting areas, schools, cemeteries or any place where people gather, play, loll, visit or frolic. It won’t keep anyone from feeling wet grass under their bare toes. Instead, think fenced areas with “keep off the grass” signs, plus street medians, mall landscaping and the like.


(Editor’s Note: For rebates, classes, and water-saving tips:

A drought tolerant design inspired by mountain views is the 2023 winner of the San Dieguito Water District Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

Mountains Inspire Winners of San Dieguito Water District 2023 Landscape Contest

Large trees were the driving force that led Encinitas homeowners to remove grass and create a vibrant, low-water use landscape. The waterwise transformation won the San Dieguito Water District 2023 Landscape Makeover Contest.

Rick and Melanie Cullen had a yard with grass with large shade trees. But the roots of their three large Liquidambar trees were damaging the driveway and the grass, which motivated the couple to remake their landscape.

Overgrown landscape trees helped inspire Melanie Cullen to change her original landscaping to a waterwise design. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

Overgrown landscape trees helped inspire a change to a waterwise landscape design. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

“San Dieguito Water District is proud to recognize customers like the Cullens, who create beautiful and resilient landscapes while making efficient use of their water,” said Isam Hireish, general manager of San Dieguito Water District.

Mountain visits inspire landcape makeover

Melanie Cullen's new design incorporates a dry riverbed. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

The makeover design incorporates a dry riverbed. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

The Cullens wanted to plant a drought-tolerant, water-wise yard that would be easy to maintain, beautiful, and hold up to their frequent travel schedule.

“My inspiration was to create a water wise, drought-tolerant front yard that also provides us a beautiful yard as if we were in the mountains,” said Melanie Cullen. It started with taking existing small landscape rocks and repurposing them into a natural dry streambed feature.

Colorful plant palette pollinators love

Plants in beautiful colors that attract pollinators highlight the plant palette. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

Plants in beautiful colors that attract pollinators highlight the plant palette. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

Plants were selected that would thrive in the coastal San Diego County environment. The invasive Liquidambar trees were replaced by Blue Ice Cypress, Forest Pansy Red Bud, and dwarf Deodar Cedar trees. Colorful drought-tolerant flowering shrubs and perennials including Coastal Woolybush, salvias, echinaceas, Texas primrose, heronsbill, columbine, Grevillea ‘Mt. Tamboritha’ and ‘Sour Grapes’ Penstemon provide habitat for pollinators.

Fragrant ground cover

Grasses including Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ and Acorus ‘Variegated Sweetflag’ add to the plant palette. Creeping Thyme and trailing Rosemary are used as colorful, fragrant ground cover.

A highlight: one dozen Azaleas create a woodland flower look. Cullen says they bloom when other plants aren’t flowering.

“One might think they are water hogs, but they get the same water as everything else and bloom quite a bit throughout the year,” said Cullen. “It was a matter of choosing the right type of Azalea (Red Bird and Alaska White).”

Drip irrigation system saves water 

Melanie Cullen installed a circular drip irrigation system. She only needs to water once every one to two weeks for 20 minutes now that the plants are established. Photo: San Dieguito Water District

A circular drip irrigation system requires watering plants only once every one-to-weeks for 20 minutes.  Photo: San Dieguito Water District

The Cullens used a drip irrigation system that encircles each plant individually to direct water to the specific plant. They already had a smart irrigation controller which is still in use. A remote moisture sensor was added allowing the homeowners to monitor the ground moisture at the plants and then adjust watering for the yard.

Three to four inches of bark mulch helps retain irrigation, which has worked “extremely well.”

Tapping rain

Melanie Cullen says the irrigation was turned off completely from January through May due to generous rainfall. “Presently, we only need to water once every one to two weeks for 20 minutes,” she said.

“I join our Board of Directors in recognizing the leadership of the Cullens and commend them for taking proactive steps to improve our community’s resilience to a changing climate,” said Isam Hireish, General Manager of San Dieguito Water District. “I encourage all customers to utilize water more efficiently and take advantage of the various water-saving incentives we offer.”

In the months since the landscape makeover, the Cullens report all their original goals were met. “We love sitting in our front now and watching the many hummingbirds that also love our yard,” said Melanie Cullen.

For rebates, classes, and water-saving tips:

(Editor’s note: The San Dieguito Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

New State Tax Break and Lawn Removal Rebates Save Money, Water

Fall is the perfect time to yank those thirsty lawns and install drought-tolerant landscapes with the help of cooler days and major financial incentives.

Homeowners and businesses in San Diego County can receive between $2 and $4 per square foot for removing grass and replacing it with low water-use plants that are better suited to withstand the hot and dry conditions that continue to hammer the West.

Las Vegas Pushes to Become First to Ban Ornamental Grass

A desert city built on a reputation for excess and indulgence wants to become a model for restraint and conservation with a first-in-the-nation policy banning grass that nobody walks on.

Las Vegas-area water officials have spent two decades trying to get people to replace thirsty greenery with desert plants, and now they’re asking the Nevada Legislature to outlaw roughly 40% of the turf that’s left.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates there are almost 8 square miles (21 square kilometers) of “nonfunctional turf” in the metro area — grass that no one ever walks on or otherwise uses in street medians, housing developments and office parks.

Opinion: The Time has Come for California to Ban Front Yard Lawns for New Homes

The climate change cabal in Sacramento is ignoring some extremely low hanging fruit in their bid to protect us from ourselves.

The reason they don’t see it is simple. It doesn’t involve raising taxes, rewarding corporations or disruptor greenies they align with, nor does it destroy jobs.

The California Legislature needs to ban grass lawns for front yards as well as general commercial development for all new building projects.

Remove Your Lawn the Healthy Way

The day has come to replace your thirsty, water guzzling grass. Before you remove it, plan your process carefully to leave only healthy living soil as the foundation for a beautiful, thriving new landscape.

Don’t just turn off your irrigation and let your grass turn brown as it dies off. Healthy microbes in your soil will die off along with the lawn. You want to work with those microbes to help create healthy soil for your new plants.


Helix Water District: New Video Helps You Program Your Controller And Water Efficiently

As we enter the summer season with its longer and hotter days, your landscape will require more water to stay healthy. Correctly programming your irrigation controller is key to keeping your plants thriving, and your water bill low.