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California bans watering of "non-functional" ornamental grass at commercial, industrial buildings

Stricter water conservation measures considered by state to combat drought
Stricter water conservation measures considered by state to combat drought 02:19

California banned the watering of "non-functional" grass at commercial, industrial, and institutional sites as the state heads toward a devastatingly dry, hot summer.

The State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Tuesday to implement a statewide ban on watering of "non-functional" turf in commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors. Non-functional turf is considered to be any grass that is ornamental and not used for recreational purposes, so the ban would not apply to school fields, sports fields, and parks.

"California is facing a drought crisis and every local water agency and Californian needs to step up on conservation efforts," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "I am hopeful the measures enacted by the State Water Board will lead to a reduction of water use across the state."

The ban would not apply to residential properties, but does apply to the non-functional turf maintained by homeowner associations. The new restriction takes effect on June 10.

Despite Newsom's increasingly urgent calls to conserve, the state's water use actually jumped dramatically in March – up 19% compared to the same month in 2020.

Outdoor landscaping is identified as the biggest usage of water throughout the state, according to most water officials. While the water board says recycled, or gray, water can be used to irrigate turf, officials say watering priority should be given to trees to keep them alive and help keep neighborhoods cool.

"Using our precious water resources to irrigate thirsty grass that serves no function is wasteful, particularly during this severe drought," Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said in a statement. "Our priority must be to preserve and stretch our limited supplies to ensure we have enough water to meet human health and safety needs."

Water suppliers and local government will be tasked with enforcing the ban, and violators could be hit with conservation orders and fines of up to $500 per day.

"These conservation measures are increasingly important as we enter the summer months. I'm asking all Californians to step up, because every single drop counts," Newsom said.

The State Water Board also approved regulations requiring local agencies to implement water use restrictions ahead of extreme weather conditions during which water supplies could as much as 20% lower.

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