Between the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert. With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.
Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought. Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become. It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone. A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.
The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.
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At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while. Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .
There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns. Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them. At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.
Lawns: A Thing of the Past?
At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water. For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine. On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard. As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.
Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses in my area that are doing it right.
If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment. For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property. If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants. Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.
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