As California enters its fourth year of what Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo described as “an unprecedented drought,” local leaders of the seventh-largest city in the state are spearheading new conservation efforts and encouraging Long Beach’s residents to follow suit.
Mungo and Eighth District Councilman Al Austin joined Long Beach Fire Station 19 as it unveiled its new drought-tolerant landscape on Friday, which replaced a previously existing water-intensive lawn. According to Jake Heflin, spokesman for the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD), this is the second fire station in Long Beach to convert their lawn to a drought-tolerant garden, after Fire Station 17.
“No one recognizes more than us that a drought increases the dangers of fire and that steps can be taken locally, and even outside our own front doors, to be more conservation-minded with an eye toward long-term sustainability and safety," said LBFD Chief Mike DuRee during the unveiling.
Fire Station 19’s new garden landscape will use 80 percent less water and require 70 percent less maintenance, according to DuRee. The front entry landscaping was made possible through a $6,400 SoCal WaterSmart Program grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Located along Clark Avenue adjacent to Skylinks Golf Course and near the airport, the LBFD hope the station’s front entry will serve as a reminder to the community that several water-saving rebate options are available to Long Beach residents during the drought.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offers incentives for all properties. Over 1,300 homeowners have replaced their grass lawns with gardens through the Long Beach Water Department’s Lawn-to-Garden (L2G) Turf Replacement Program that offers up to $3,500 for drought-tolerant plants. As of January 2014, the water department has offered up to $2,500 to residents who convert their lawns to synthetic turf through the Synthetic Turf Pilot Program (STPP).
“Through a partnership with my colleague Al [Austin], I proposed and started a lawn-to-fake lawn program,” Mungo told the Post. “A lot of senior citizens aren’t really able to do the maintenance of a garden and also planting a garden and going through the plans and processes."
This week, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation that requires an immediate 25 percent reduction in “potable urban water use,” said Mungo. The LBWD will discuss a plan to reduce water usage by 16 percent on Monday in response to the board’s vote to finalize water conservation schedules across the state, as was previously reported by the Post.
Also this week, the Long Beach City Council approved a motion to draft a resolution in support of Assembly Bill 88, which seeks to provide a sales and use tax exemption for energy or water efficiency appliances to certain income-eligible utility consumers, while Long Beach’s Smart Meter Installation Program allows customers to view their water usage in five-minute increments to help residents detect illegal watering in real time.
Austin said, “I think as leaders we have to lead by example. My wife and I, we put in a drought- tolerant landscape in our front yard about a year and a half ago. About six months ago, we did our back yard, and we’re saving quite a bit on water right now.”
“We can’t overemphasize the importance of conserving water," he said. "Again I as a councilmember, I’m going to lead by example, but I’m also going to do all I can to make sure that we have the resources, the information, to educate our constituents to do the same.”
For more information on water conservation in Long Beach, visit the LBWD's website here. To report a water waster, call the LBWD hotline at (562) 570-2455.
Before picture courtesy of the Fifth District. All other photos by Asia Morris.