Changing landscape

Lawns, to some degree, may be going the way of the dinosaur, as more and more businesses, and homeowners are giving up conventional landscaping for artificial grass, and drought-resistant plants and shrubbery.

If you think the trend to artificial grass is just a novelty, ask David Schy, owner of Tru Turf of Clovis, a business started 20 years ago by his father and his buddy.

“With the drought and the governor’s mandate, the artificial grass industry in California is projecting a 2,000% increase in business this year,” Schy said. “With the massive growth, new companies are popping-up everywhere, and conversions are happening all over the state in cities, counties, and colleges. Our company has recently completed done jobs in Porterville, and Bakersfield, and a 25,000 square-foot job at the college in Turlock.

According to Schy, the artificial grass costs about seven to nine dollars a square-foot installed.

Two Oakhurst businesses, like many around the state, are one step ahead of the governor, having already removed the grass from the front of their properties in favor of artificial turf.

Judy Troehler, property facilitator for SKN Properties in Fresno, the owners of the Highway 41 complex that houses Jamba Juice, Starbucks Coffee, Sugar Pine Gourmet Pizza, AT&T, and Mariscos Colima Tacos, said the change was made for a couple of reasons.

“The owners of SKN Properties, Scott and Kim Negri of Monterey, are very environmentally conscious, and have been thinking of making the change for a couple of years.” Troehler said. “But it was the state-wide drought that made the time right to make the change. It will help with the high cost of water ... we will be able to not only save water, but reduce those costs to our tenants.”

Troehler explained that the property management company has always turned the landscaping water off at its properties between November and March.

“Now with the 2,800 square-feet of artificial grass (installed by Tru Turf) in front of Jamba Juice, we expect to save between 30 to 50% on the annual landscape watering needs,” Troehler said. “We still use drip for the trees and plants, but it is a small amount compared to keeping that large piece of grass watered. We don’t know for sure what the savings will be, but we are counting on a big savings on the cost of water.”

Troehler said no one knows how long the drought will last, and they don’t know what future water rates will be, but they are doing all they can to conserve water.

Brad Ditton, owner-broker of Century 21 on the north-east corner of Crane Valley Road (426) and Highway 41, also made the decision to replace the lawn surrounding the Talking Bear with artificial grass. And not only did he make the conversion at his business, he also had SYNLawn of Clovis install 2,085 square-feet of the artificial lawn in the front and back yard of his Coarsegold home.

Ditton remembers reading his home water meter during very hot days last year and realizing he was “wasting” 500 gallons per day on those lawns.

Ditton said he noticed last summer that without the winter recharging of water in the top soil, normal watering was not doing anything to support plant growth.

“I guess because the ground was so dry the earth simply absorbed all the water and left nothing for the plants,” Ditton said. “Now, after we add some colorful drought resistant plants to our landscaping, we will be using about three to five gallons of water per day.

Bob and Mary Jane Riva are happy with their newly constructed home in Ahwahnee that features artificial grass and drought-tolerant plants in the front and back yard.

“We just completed construction of the house and chose artificial turf because of the continuing drought in Californian,” Bob Riva said.

Water board sets draft 35% reduction for Madera County

Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced his executive order for a state-wide 25% reduction in water use by cities and counties. Part of his $1 billion drought package included funds to replace 50 million square-feet of lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping due to the drought crises, although he put no specific restrictions on agriculture and the oil industry. The state’s agriculture industry uses about 80% of water used by people according to the Public Policy Institute.

Since Brown’s announcement, the State Water Resources Control Board has set specific reduction goals for cities and counties on a sliding scale based on past conservation results. The draft goals, released April 7, range from 10% to 35%, with communities and counties who have shown a higher use of water in the past being now asked to reduce more.

The water board looked at the amount of water saved from June 2014 to February 2015, versus a comparable period in 2013.

The goal for Madera County is to conserve 35% as the per person water use in September 2014 was nearly 300 gallons of water per day. By comparison, the cities of Reedley, Fresno, Tulare, and Sanger per-capita use was below 150 gallons per day, and the cities of Madera, Clovis, Hanford, Selma, Visalia, and Kerman were under 200 gallons a day per person.

All of California is now on Stage 2 water restrictions, including customers of Hillview and Bass Lake Water companies.

The restrictions for Hillview customers, which represent about 60% of the Oakhurst area (about 40% on private wells), are:

1. Watering outdoor landscapes in a way that causes water to “runoff” onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.

2. Washing a vehicle, with a hose without a shut-off nozzle or other device that will immediately stop the flow of water when not in use.

3. Using drinking water to wash driveways and sidewalks.

4. Using drinking water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except where the water is recirculated.

5. Limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days per week. Even numbered address water on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Odd numbered addresses water on Wednesdays and Sundays.

6. No watering allowed between 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

In addition to the above, the water board added the following prohibitions effective March 27:

1. Customers are not allowed to irrigate turf or ornamental landscapes during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation.

2. Restaurants and other food service establishments can only serve water to customers on request.

3. Operators of hotels and motels must provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily and prominently display notice of this option.

4. Customers will be informed by their water utility when the utility is aware of leaks that are within the customer’s control.

Violation of any of these prohibited or restricted water use activities may be punished by a fine of up to $500 for each day in which the violation occurs.

The Public Utilities Commission reminds property owners to call “811” before doing any digging to remove grass or to plant drought-tolerant plants.

Learn easy ways to save water every day by visiting California’s efforts to deal with the effects of the drought can be found at