California homeowners are increasingly converting their lawns from grass to turf, flower beds, walkaways, or other elements to save water and money.
Lawn conversions gained steam during previous droughts in the Golden State, as the Department of Water Resources issued "turf rebates" to homeowners taking their traditional lawns out. Though water conservation has been declining, with 114 rebates issued in 2018 versus more than 8,000 from August 2015 to August 2016. Landscaper Bill Anderson who has worked in the Fresno area for more than 60 years estimates that he has converted at least 500 lawns over the last three years, telling CityLab, “Around here, water and air quality are our two main things. Everyone has those on their mind,” Anderson said. “I don’t think people would convert if that were not the case.”
Permanent water restrictions will go into effect in the 2020s, thanks to two state laws passed last year, which could lead to a surge in turf removal. And Anderson’s experience suggests a lasting shift in how Californians think about their yards is under way. “Not in a million years did I think that people here would give up their lawns. It’s what they’re used to: mow the lawn, maybe trim the shrubs,” Anderson said. “But converting is a lot more creative. And the same people have shown an astounding willingness to accept the change.”