Lawns and unmetered water in the arid West? On the way out



The city council of Fresno, California is considering two water-saving moves that make lots of sense – paying homeowners to remove lawns and banning
water-consuming landscaping in new construction.

Fresno has already changed its silly practice of charging residents a flat rate for water no
matter how much they use, though the switch won’t be made til 2013.  The Fresno Bee notes that "Fresno
residents use an average of 60 gallons of water a day more than their
neighbors in Clovis, where homes are metered."  Now there’s an example of market forces working.

Source: Fresno Bee.  Photo by Gapplewagen via Flickr.


  1. Outlawing lawns?
    Rediculous, Insane,
    what next: Obama in the White House?
    Reduce water use: fine there are many lawn grasses that need less care.
    Let’s get real before they outlaw gardening too

    The TROLL

  2. It is about time! Fresno, where the average annual rainfall is only 8.93 inches per year (compare this with 12 inches in Tucson) is probably one of the last cities in the west to enjoy the wastefulness of flat water rates. California’s central valleys have more in common with the Mojave desert than the do with California’s coastal climates. In my experience, there is nothing like a $300 water bill to help change your garden style and watering habits to a more locally appropriate design.

    Thanks for posting about water issues Susan!

  3. I can’t believe a flat rate for water in a semi arid climate that’s nuts. Here, in the midwest where we have substantially much more rainfall our town has us paying a flat rate for 1000 gallons consumed (whether you use 1 or 999), anything over that is prorated.

    And yes, there are idiots who have $300 water bills because of large pools and sprinkler systems running every day but at least they are being charged for their wastefulness.

    Like lawns – move back east…

  4. I’ll be happy when they do that in Florida as well. I try to use as little water as possible, only watering when absolutely necessary. I’ve even started getting rid of my potted plants to conserve water. I was actually relieved when the construction stopped. Still, we have those stupid deed restricted country clubs and other communities that force people to water their lawns. My friend in the CC wanted to take up her lawn and put down ground cover to conserve water, and they wouldn’t let her! Talk about stupid.

    Americans are the only people stupid enough to spend millions of dollars a year growing a crop they can neither sell nor eat.

  5. Ugh. They are in the process of switching from a flat rate to meters in Reno as well and people get so pissy about it. Like it should be their right to waste as much water as they want! Too bad you decided to move to the desert during a drought!

    We just KO’d 70% of our lawn and kept a little patch that we sit on and enjoy (convenient for playing with kids and dogs). The rest is slowly getting xeriscaped with drought-tolerant (or lazy-gardener tolerant) shrubs and permeable hardscaping (for the times we DO get a bit of that crazy water from the sky). I am just getting more and more smug as those meters get put in (we cut our Aug. water bill in 1/2 when we turned the sprinklers off)…

  6. So if I have a pool and a lawn larger than you SJ I am an idiot?

    You eco freaks need to leave those of us who like lawns and pools alone. How do you know we did not purchase water credits from someone else who uses less then the norm?
    Maybe I take sponge baths and use rain water to do my laundry.

    Maybe I never wash my car or go to the car wash.
    Maybe my house is smaller than yours and maybe I have only one toilet or maybe a composting or incinerating toilet.

    Maybe I don’t make coffee in the morning. Maybe I use recyced paper plates and then compost them.

    Wait a minute! Your vegetable garden is bigger than mine. How dare you use more water in your garden than I.

    Is that a koi pond and a hot tub by your back door?

    What a bird bath too?

    A humming bird feeder?

    Get the picture here folks……..It’s 1984 in our gardens and Big Brother is watching.

    We are too good (aka holier than thou) to think there are no new gardeners who need advice on what to do in their gardens with the change of seasons and now we know how to use water better than our neighbors.

    It’s gardening people not factory farming. It’s municipal or well water not the Rio Grande’.

    If you don’t like the amount of water that I use and PAY FOR then use less yourself sinc e you are so much better than the rest of us

    The (hated 1984 anyway) TROLL

    Enough already!

  7. Lord, The Troll is on or off his meds again.

    Greg you have a choice, all the water you want to use and pay for or fewer people on the planet. You can’t have both. There is only so much fresh usable water at any given point in time and more and more people needing to share this resource. Got it?

    And Sarah Palin is an idiot too. How do you like them wet apples?

  8. “Maybe I don’t make coffee in the morning. Maybe I use recyced paper plates and then compost them.”

    Maybe I harvest my own herbs for tea. Maybe I save resources by hand-washing plates. How much water does it take to manufacture those recycled paper plates, I wonder? One must think of the bigger picture here.

    “Your vegetable garden is bigger than mine. How dare you use more water in your garden than I.”

    ‘Cause in doing so, I eat very, very locally, and use less water than the big farmers do. And soon there will be rain barrels to catch free water.

    “Is that a koi pond and a hot tub by your back door?”

    No, and no again. Can’t raise koi here in Raccoon Acres, and who has time for hot tubbing, let alone the price of buying one of those glorified bathtubs?

    “What a bird bath too? A humming bird feeder?”

    Gardening to help preserve wildlife? A-yup. What’s that compared with a big ol’ swimming pool?

    If that makes me a “freak,” well, I shall freak to the best of my freaky ability. And I shan’t even call you a “freak” if you really do have a composting toilet, you earth-hugger, you.

  9. Ok Mister Troll, some people need to realize that while you in the lush NE may love your lawn and water it like crazy, that is NOT the same as being somewhere that is in severe drought conditions and resenting being required to pay for all the water you are using on your giant lawn. I respect people’s wishes to have a giant water-sucking lawn in the desert if they want to – I am not going to force them to rip it out. However, I am glad that they are going to have to PAY for all the water they are using. Wasting water in the NE seems to be a completely different concept than it is in the West. When I visited Massachusetts I could not believe how green everything was! It was gorgeous! But I grew up not knowing what it was like to NOT be living under drought conditions. People need to respect the resources we have, they are not infinite.

  10. I doubt anyone will actually outlaw lawns, but I find the indignation of some people towards that idea MOST amusing!

    Many of those same people were perfectly happy planting “alien-weed-grass lawns” and outlawing native wildflowers!

    I wonder where “Troll” was then???

  11. I might also add that in some western cities, up to 60% of community water supplies have been used for watering lawns over the last few decades.

    As someone who has worked with groundwater issues for almost 30 years, in my opinion, this situation has been beyond stupid, and should have been regarded as an almost criminal misuse of desperately valuable resources.

  12. I had no idea that there were still places without water meters. Here in SC we are in a severe drought, and have voluntary water restrictions, but there is talk of making them mandatory. Personally I never water my lawn, I confess I like it when it’s brown and crunchy because then I don’t have to mow! LOL (saves gas an well as water!!!)

  13. Water should be metered. But we have an interesting catch 22 in California where people are being asked to take out the lawn and then fined for not meeting landscaping codes.
    I will keep my own lawn as long as I can afford the water. I like watching the birds and bunnies scampering about. My neighbors can do what they want- just so they keep it neat and looking kept up.

  14. When you are on your own well and live so far from any neighbors that your water usage in no way effects the water tables they get their water from…then and only then do you have the right to waste water. There is a finite amount of water in this world and we all share it. So I say yeah for meters, yeah for sensible landscaping, and yeah for turning off the water when you brush your teeth!

  15. I must have missed the one on outlawing native plants. Had I seen it I would have been just as outraged.

    I do live in the NE, I do like my 600 square foot (not 6,000 btw) of lawn that I actually do water and manicure. I have let the back 1/2 of my property grow wild and converted another 2500 square fet of my lawn into garden beds.My water is metered and we pay a high price for the water in excess of $800 a year. I do not have sprinklers anywhere but the 600 square foot patch. And even then I only water it twice a summer because of the heavy clay here that holds the moisture for very long periods of time.

    To Christpher NC: I am not on or off meds. I consume copius amounts of caffeine (OK caffeine is a drug I plead guilty) I do not waste water. I just do not think gardening should be a regulated hobby.

    What I am really glad of is to see posters on here get excited again. I like a good debate and can take the punches.

    And Yes I did have a composting toilet at our summer home in the Adirondacks……….but we sold it (the toilet and the camp) to pay off some $40,000 in emergency home and car repairs incurred over then last three years.
    And I do not miss the gas bill travelling 200 extra miles round trip every weekend going up there.
    I now kayak on the Hudson River instead much more relaxing than filling up gas tanks and sending money to towel heads who want us dead anyway

    The(am I really a tree hugger?) TROLL

  16. To Reading Dirt: Good Punches thrown at me!

    The composting toilet was just put inso I did not have to pay $15,000 for s septic system and because the leach field would have been really close to wet lands and I like wet lands!

    The (Freaky non Earth hugging earth hugger)TROLL

  17. there’s always a loose loon in every community.

    Understanding,respecting and conserving the earths’ natural resources is a responsibility that needs to be acknowledged by all its inhabitants.
    Like it or not, we are all living on the same planet, which does not have a unlimited amount of resources.

    Conservation and preplanning is our reponsibility.
    No amount of money is going to bail us out when this crisis occurs.
    Rational,sensible planning is required.

    Michelle in drought stricken Spain

  18. A loose loon who uses little if any pesticide organic or not. A loon whose lawn used to be 1/2 acre and is now 2500 sq ft. It is never enough for you people. I conserve, recycle, re-use, drive slower to save money but as long as it is done for any reason other than to save the planet I am wrong. It’s the same end….but you don’t like my means.

    Gardening is supposed to be a respite, a way to get away from the pressures of life.

    Now it is being attacked by those who do not like lawns no matter how small. As long as it is a lawn it is no good. So I guess I will send my kids out to play in the middle of the street on black top made of oil instead of wathing them roll on an organic lawn watching the bugs that crawl below the GREEN CANOPY of leaves.

    They will now have to lie in the middle of the street instaed of lying on the lush lawn of 600 square feet to make pictures out of the clouds or watch the meteor showers in the August sky.

    Or I could let them just sit in front of the VCR and then play video games all day long since the lawn is off limits.

    The (dazed and confused) TROLL

  19. I do not listen to Rush Limbaugh.

    It is called incrementalism Chris.

    Get one foot in the door and before you know it you lose all freedom whether in the garden or privacy matters.

    Just like wire tapping without a warrant, security cameras everywhere you look, speech police etc.

    I saw it in the Adirondacks where the environmentalists have succeeded in out lawing fly in fishing to remote lakes. They got the motorized boat ban put in place in many areas and now have gotten fly in fishing banned. Fisherman hired sea planes to fly them in to a remote lake where they weould camp fr a few days, fish in paddle boats, then get picked up by said sea plane and returned home.
    All beacuse the seaplane scares animals according these enviromentalists.
    The Adirondacks are the most regualted land use area in the northeast but it is not enough for them. They will not be satisfied until they are the only ones left to baby sit the trees.

    Where is the balance all these enviros talk about? There is none. They want it all. Their way or the highway.

    Again I make my point that I do all the stuff like drive slower, recycle, re-use etc because it saves money. If it benefits the environment as well good. But since I do it in the name of primarily saving money not resources it is not good enough.

    What is rational about that?

    I’m soory but I cannot drink the Kool-Aid. I like Lemon Aid better.

    The (got better things to do than waste any more time here) TROLL

  20. Too bad you’ve got better things to do than waste your time here, greg, I was getting interested hearing about your yard – when my husband bought our house there was probably 1200 square feet of lawn in the front yard AND at least that much in the backyard. They were definitely not on meters at the time. I don’t consider water meters incrementalism in the West as much as a voice of sanity. We are not down to about 400 square feet which is very nice to hang out on and still has sprinklers – it’s not all or nothing, but a drought is a drought.

  21. The discussion isn’t about garden yards with a small patch of lawn! That’s NOT what one finds sprawling across America!

    One finds, instead, an endless stretch of water-guzzling, alien weedgrass, broken only occasionally by a bush or flower bed! That’s what must be changed!

    As for kids playing… The neighbor’s kids were always playing in my tiny restored woodlands, as well as my small, remaining lawn! What a great place to run through the paths and hide, or climb a tree. My daughter grew up playing in our little “woods”, climbing trees, and wandering through prairie and garden eating gooseberries and mulberries, picking pumpkins…

    As an added note… Native plants are usually banned indirectly, with height or “weed” regulations (as if anyone writing a law knew what a “weed” was). However, in some places laws specifically banning “native vegetation” were passed. As a matter of fact, as I read one law, it would have required the removal of all native Elms, Maples, Oaks, etc!

  22. “It is called incrementalism Chris.”

    No Greg, it is called human over population. That is basic Wildlife Management 101. The ecosystems which we depend upon for life are subject to collaspe from the stresses of over population. Ignore that in your right wing piety to yours and your childrens peril.

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