The Water District has the right idea with banning ornamental lawns – Marin Independent Journal
The Marin Municipal Water District is far from over the hill when it comes to the drought and its water supply.
While the rains of November and December brought relief and more time to make decisions, the county and its customers still face a major challenge. The unwinding of restrictions imposed amid the water supply crisis should be approached with due caution, particularly given the recent return of unusually dry winter weeks.
Consumers and business customers must uphold their environmental ethics, especially protection against water wastage.
The district board’s decision to ban commercial property owners from planting or maintaining lawns isn’t a huge step, but it’s one that will help conserve water.
According to the district, there are about 73 acres — in malls, middle streets and along sidewalks — of lawn that needs to be replaced, saving the district 350 acres of water each year.
The district’s measure gives owners until 2025 to make the transition. There is also room for exceptions, such as a daycare center or a veterinarian.
They make sense.
So is a provision that allows for lawns where property owners can water them with recycled water or stormwater harvesting systems that don’t rely on the county’s potable water supply.
In most cases, commercial properties have turned away from planting lawns in recent years – not only because of the water costs, but also because of the costs of regularly mowing and weeding the lawn. It’s easier and cheaper to plant drought tolerant landscaping.
The district’s constraint underscores that landscaping is one of the largest consumers of water.
Keeping lawns green is a big part of that appeal, which is why the borough has long incentivized residents and businesses to replace their green lawns with less water-dependent alternatives.
The district’s step towards commercial real estate makes sense.
As MMWD director Monty Schmitt put it, “There are places where we just don’t need weed.”
At this time, however, the district does not impose a similar ban on homes, schools, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, churches and community areas shared by homeowners’ associations, instances where turfs serve an important function.
This boundary recognizes the role that lawns, where people can gather, play or just sit, serves a valued need.
While the county’s action saves an estimated 1.2% of its supply, it could serve to raise awareness among consumers large and small that there may be better water-saving alternatives.
MMWD came painfully close enough to a crisis – given estimates of the reality that it could run out of supplies – that it must proceed with caution. The district must continue with actions, including those working with neighboring water authorities, to increase its capacity and supply, increase its supply and use of recycled water, and find ways to make it easier for customers to track their use and water save.
Every drop counts. The goal is that we use water sensibly.