​California prepares for new life, new look under water restrictions

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- In Los Angeles a company called Turf Terminators is busy tearing out lawns and replacing them with gravel and drought resistant plants. It's paid for by a local government program that rebates $3 for every square foot of grass that's gone.

On Thursday Marise Freitas said goodbye to her thirsty lawn.

"We're essentially in a desert and people are maintaining yards like we live in the tropics and it's a silly waste of water," said Freitas.

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Crews work to remove grass and install gravel to help with California's water restriction
CBS News

The mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use for Californians means more and more yards will be torn up and replaced.

"We are on a wave of a new era of landscaping in Southern California, and hopefully in California in general," said Turf Terminators CEO Ryan Nivakoff.

On average 60 percent of domestic water use goes to outdoor irrigation, so that's the obvious place to make the 25 percent reduction.

In Santa Cruz those who use too much water are sent to water school to learn better habits. That and hefty fines from $200 to several thousand dollars reduced water usage by 25 percent in the city last year.

To help people cope with cuts the sewage treatment plant in Dublin San Ramon now provides recycled water for use in outdoor irrigation. Anyone with a gallon tank or more can come and fill up with free water. It's not drinkable but it's fine for the garden, says operations manager Dan Gallagher.

"When we rely on Mother Nature, to bring us rain and snow and it doesn't happen we have to have a way to take care of the people that are already here," said Gallagher.

The recycled water from Dublin San Ramon's sewage treatment plant is also used to keep local parks green. The district uses electronic water meters that provide minute by minute readings that show who's using too much water. That method helped cut water usage by 25 percent last year.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.