California Calls For Ban On Irrigating “Non Functional” Turfgrass

Drought measure would only apply to turfgrass adjacent to large industrial and commercial buildings.

Following the driest first three months of a year in the state’s recorded history, California Governor Gavin Newsom last week ordered the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to evaluate the adoption of regulations banning irrigation of “non-functional” turfgrass adjacent to large industrial and commercial buildings. The ban would not include residential lawns or grass used for recreation, such as school fields, sports fields, and parks. A copy of the executive order can be found here.

California turfgrass
WestWide Drought Tracker, U Idaho/WRCC, Data Source: PRISM (Prelim), created April 2, 2022.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) estimates this ban alone will result in potential water savings of several hundred thousand acre-feet. An acre-foot of water serves the needs of approximately three households for a year.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” said Governor Newsom. “Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. Amid climate-driven extremes in weather, we must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life.”

The order called on the SWRCB to consider requiring urban water suppliers to activate, at a minimum, Level 2 of their customized Water Shortage Contingency Plans. These plans, required by state law, are developed by local water agencies to navigate drought. Triggering Level 2 of these plans involves implementing water conservation actions to prepare for a water shortage level of up to 20%. For example, in many communities, this would mean reducing the number of days that residents can water outdoors, among other measures.

Shortage Stats

Lack of snow is a major driver of the situation. On April 1, DWR conducted the fourth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station and recorded just 2.5″ of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 1″, which is 4% of average for this location and date. In a normal season, the snowpack depth would be about five feet deep at this time of year…

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