California, despite its exit from the drought crisis, may witness brown lawns becoming the new norm, as a proposed state bill seeks to guard against water wastage by prohibiting companies and industrial areas from irrigating decorative lawns with potable water. This endeavor, AB-1572, finds its roots in a similar rule implemented in 2022, whereby commercial, industrial, and government agencies were barred from utilizing drinking water to maintain grass that regulatory bodies deemed non-functional or ornamental. The state legislature later extended this prohibition until June 2024.
The bill aims to engrave this regulation into permanence. Consequently, an expulsion of fresh water usage would transpire, impacting not just the right-of-ways but also the landscapes of strip malls, office parks, corporate campuses, and schools. With the objective of conserving water in mind, San Jose resident Williemina Godinez questions the necessity of water usage for unused lawns, emphasizing the urgent need for water-saving measures.
While proponents rally behind the notion, others contend that restrictions should cease in light of the state’s current water surplus. Michael Middleton of Morgan Hill opines that restraints on grass-oriented legislation could be relaxed, highlighting the aesthetic value attached to grass as a decorative element. Nonetheless, the bill would facilitate the continuation of watering by businesses via non-potable, recycled water, or the substitution of lawns with drought-resilient landscapes. Notably, residential lawns, parks, sports fields, and golf courses would remain unaffected, as would the watering of trees.
The bill garnered support from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, with Matt Keller, a spokesperson for Valley Water, emphasizing the logicality of its implementation, especially in the face of the region’s increasingly hot and arid climate. Keller highlights the historical context of the state’s water scarcity issues, mentioning the severe drought experienced just a few years ago. Acknowledging the inevitability of another drought, the district is offering businesses rebates of up to $100,000 to encourage the transition away from non-functional lawns, recognizing the necessity for impending changes.
With its successful passage through the Assembly, AB-1572 now journeys towards the Senate. Should the bill evolve into law, the bans would be gradually phased in by 2027, ensuring ample time for affected entities to adapt and conform to the new legislation.