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Homeowners removing lawns to save water, money

Industry News

One landscaper in Southern California says he's seen a "real upswing" in customers seeking water-friendly landscapes. | June 21, 2011

There was also the cost of hiring a landscaper to maintain his lawn weekly. The noise from mowers and weed-whackers disrupted his work at home, and sprinklers hitting his house attracted bugs to the inside.

In addition, sprinkler heads would break, leading to costly repairs. "If it was underground, you'd have a pool of water somewhere," Fisher said.

Fisher is one of a number of local homeowners who are going -- and saving -- green by removing grass and replacing it with rocks, drought-resistant plants or other water-saving features.

Gary Gunia, owner of A-1 Landscape and Design in Temecula, said he's seen a "real upswing" in the past year in customers seeking water-friendly or waterless landscapes.

"The American dream was this green lawn," he said. "You're looking at (home) models now, you'll see instead of a green lawn, you'll see mulch, you'll see a flower bed."

Ryan Ertle, marketing coordinator for RCP Block & Brick, a Lemon Grove-based company with an office in Murrieta, said his company has seen a 25 percent increase in the past year for artificial turf. Today's turf, he said, looks much more like a natural lawn than the Astroturf of old, with customers able to choose the height of the fake grass.

Also, RCP is stocking a wider variety of decorative landscape stone, Ertle said. One popular type of product is interlocking pavers that can be used in conjunction with potted plants, he said.

Besides the struggling economy, changes to water rates may be driving the push for lawn alternatives.

In the past year, the Rancho California Water District, which serves Temecula, part of Murrieta and nearby unincorporated areas, implemented a tiered rate system to encourage water conservation.

Under the new system, households are given customized water budgets intended to cover normal use. Penalties are imposed if a customer exceeds his or her allotment.

District General Manager Matt Stone said the district board has talked about working with a business or homeowners association to present a demonstration project of a water-saving landscape as an example of what the public can do to conserve water.

 "We're all kind of in this for the long haul," Stone said. "There will be good periods and bad periods of supply. More efficiency is going to be important in California."

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