A couple in Orange, California have been threatened with a lawsuit from the city–because they tore up their water-wasting lawn and replaced it with wood chips and drought-resistant plants. The Los Angeles Times reports that Quan and Angelina Ha reduced their annual water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009: an 80% savings. The city says the Has are not in compliance with an ordinance requiring 40% plant coverage. On Tuesday Quan Ha pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor for violating county codes.
Sometimes when people have kids of their own,they start to question the kind of world they will leave to their children and children’s children. Mr. Ha explains: “We’ve got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future.” Not only is the non-lawn saving tens of thousands of gallons of scarce water, but it is also saving the family hundreds of dollars a year. Should they be sued for not complying with an outdated, even harmful, suburban aesthetic ideal?
A California Public Policy Institute report estimates that outdoor water use accounts for more than half of all residential water demand. Ironically the Ha family, by removing their lawn, are actually abiding by the recommendations of the state water agency. The State of California’s Water Use Efficiency website urges conservation efforts, including:”Water-efficient landscape designs using low water-use plants” and “Minimized turf areas.” Just what the Has had done.
Water is a key political and economic issue in California, as in other parts of the Southwest. The state has endured three consecutive years of drought and reservoirs are low. There is ongoing wrangling between agricultural and residential water interests, and concern grows that water will be the new oil, a conflict-prone linchpin and threat for the long-term viability of the state. While legal compliance is important, surely common sense is more so. Let’s hope this ridiculous charge is dropped in favor of responsible behavior, especially behavior that considers the needs of generations to come.
Photo: Brad Wieland, Studio A Inc. via iStockphoto