The Too-Thirsty Lawn: What Can be Done?

lawndesert.jpgAn article in today’s SFGate talks about the 11 Million more people coming to California in coming years and the inevitable strain this will put on water use. One of the main culprits will be the “traditional” green lawn which is especially popular in the hotter, drier, central valley – which has a little more space and is therefore the site of most of the growth.
People in Arizona have finally begun to accept that lawns are rather ridiculous in their part of the world and indeed, entirely new fashions of landscaping have resulted that are generally much more appropriate. California clearly needs to learn the same lesson. The article points out that legislation is currently pending that will put various restrictions on residential lawns and force additional metering. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just raise the price of water? At the same time the government could be providing people with information about other ways to landscape, as well as ways to store rainwater and greywater for use on lawns and gardens instead of coming straight from the tap.
Eventually, this type of thinking will enter the mainstream and you’ll have people boasting about their rainwater collection systems instead of the lushness of their lawns, and no one will be any poorer.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

3 responses

  1. The work in Arizona is indeed good news, but the suggestions of an overall raising of the price of water is devisive and needs to be considered in the context of te basic requirements for human life – of which water is fundamental.
    Without metering, raising the price of water rates will simply hit those less able to pay with the real risk of action being taken against the very poor. Instead, a system of metering for all, with a stepped scale as follows would be far fairer and produce the most effeciev environmental benefits:

    Zero > basic survival level* : NO water cost.

    Basic survival level > Comfort level** : Standard charge per unit

    >Comfort level : Premium charge per unit

    * Defined by WHO as basic need for drinking, cooking and washing

    ** Locally agreed level based on typical usage, break-even costs of water company and environmental authority.

    It would be illegal to cut off any user registered at an address.

    I really can’t see an argument against this. The excessive user pays high costs for excessive use, and no-one goes without the basic needs for life.

  2. Right, good points. I guess my though is that if water prices go up, the first thing people cut off is watering the lawn. But then again, the really poor probably don’t have a lawn to begin with, so obviously that should be taken into consideration!

  3. All municipalities in Israel use a stepped scale system. Each housing unit is recorded at city hall. The allotment is per the number of people living at the specific domicile. The water bill contains three prices for personal domestic water consumption. Categoty ‘3’ is usually double the cost of category ‘1’.
    An entirely separate price is charged for garden consumption. The price is actually lower than category ‘3’ domestic consumption but only if you have a separate meter installed. Here too there are two price scales. The allotment at the lower price depends on the size of your garden. Using over this amount is very very very costly. When you get a $200 water bill you fix the leak right away. This method enables the municipality to keep accurate statistics as to how much water is being used and for what. It also helps future planning and water management.
    Anyone can go down to city hall and increase the number of persons residing at an address by showing proper documented proof. The municipality automatically reduces the number back to the minimum every few years which is a hassle for residents.
    The average family with 2 children pays about $30 per month for water and sewage. That’s right, on home consumption there is a sewage charge! On garden usage there is none.
    Prices are structured so that it is worthwhile to pay $85 and have a garden meter installed.

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