California is firmly entrenched in a harsh drought, and lush green lawns might fall victim to the lack of rainfall, especially in Sacramento. Despite the fact that the city does not get much rain regularly, many yards are modeled after those that would be seen in England, where rain is the norm. But concerns over water shortages might be leading to changes in residents’ priorities.
With influence from local governments who are concerned about the water shortage, homeowners are showing a willingness to install drought-tolerant landscapes despite the fact that, as Hudson Sangree notes, “The capital’s turf tradition is deeply rooted and is even enshrined in the bylaws of various homeowners associations.”
“We’re on the cusp of change. It’s definitely here,” said, northern California president for The New Home Company Kevin Carson.
Thomas J. Mickey, author of America’s Romance with the English Garden, also adds that “In America, the lawn was linked to social class. It really took off when people had the money to move to the suburbs. Real estate agents would say, ‘Now you can have a lawn.'”
Interestingly enough, a nice lawn can add up to 15% to a home’s value, according to Gallup studies, so the idea of having a beautiful landscape comes from more than just wanting a place to relax. But since lawns are so desirable, it can be a challenge to convince homeowners to switch to designs that are more sustainable in a dry climate.
A major unknown for the future is whether or not homeowners will be willing to buy places that don’t have lawns. Carson says that the challenge lies in convincing potential buyers of the advantages to new types of landscaping and hoping that public preferences change as water conservation becomes paramount.
“Consumers’ tastes do have to change, but we have to give them some different opportunities,” he said.
Interestingly enough, some companies are actually seeing a boost in business during the drought. Paul C. Woltze has run his own landscaping business for more than 40 years, and expressed that the drought has helped his company.
“A lot of people are taking out their lawns and putting in drought-tolerant landscape. Water rates are going up, and people want to save money,” he said. “Seventy-eight percent of the water in California goes to feed the outdoor environment, and the use inside is a pittance,” he said.
Whether or not consumers will keep those priorities when the drought finally subsides is hard to say. But those who are willing to break away from traditional lawns might find themselves better able to cope with the extensive drought.