Water Department Celebrates 100th Sustainable Lawn Conversion • Long Beach Post

Alan Phair stands in his sustainable lawn and garden, paid for with help from the Long Beach Water Department.

12:30pm | Long Beach resident Alan Phair allowed visitors into his pride and joy on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, the vibrant and beautiful drought-tolerant plants in his law and garden that is the Long Beach Water Department’s 100th successful sustainable lawn conversion since offering a rebate program to residents earlier this year.

Phair has lived in the home at 6th Street and Dawson Avenue for about a year, and had dozens of potted plants with no idea what to do with them when the LBWD announced its lawn rebate program this April. Phair applied, was accepted and earned rebates of $2.50 per square foot for land that was converted to drought-resistant plants. Three months after being accepted into the program, Phair’s winding walkway through a colorful and sustainable garden was complete.

The Water Department says that Phair’s home completes the first round of the program, and that two more rounds that will assist hundreds more homes are underway.

The effort to increase the number of sustainable and drought-tolerant yards in Long Beach is also part of the Water Department’s 100 For 100 program, named as such because 2011 will be the LBWD’s 100th anniversary and the department aims to reduce the city’s overall consumption to 100 gallons per person per day. Currently, Long Beach residents use about 102 gallons per person per day, which is much less than most surrounding cities. That is partly because cities near the ocean coast usually do not use as much water, and the city is home to far more renters that don’t have lawns to water than an inland city such as, say, Riverside. But it’s also because the LBWD has made unprecendented strides in publicizing the importance conservation.

It’s a pressing issue because California is still in the midst of once-in-a-lifetime drought that has diminished water reservoir levels and could lead to water rationing in the near future if the problem persists. Some say that there is no water shortage, simply inefficient or unnecessary use of the water that is available.

“Conservation is the easiest strategy,” said Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, who is also a member of the Water Replenishment District. “These sort of incentives are what encourage people to do the right thing.”

The Long Beach program offers $2.50 per square foot up to $2,500 per yard, whereas similar programs like those in Los Angeles offer about $1.50 per square foot and are therefore not as effective. In the past three years, the city of Long Beach has already reduced its overall water consumption by more than 20%, which is the goal that Governor Schwarzenegger has set for all cities in California by 2020.

The striking thing about Phair’s lawn and garden is that it isn’t the typical drought-resistant landscape that you may have imagined. To lower conserve water use and lower their monthly bill, many homes opt for dry desert landscaping that includes rocks, woodchips, cactus and other desert plants that while often quite attractive, don’t necessarily please the eye with lush greens and other bright colors. Phair’s, however, uses native plants that use little water but are also strikingly beautiful.

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