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Amid struggle to fight drought, California declares war on lush lawns

LOS ANGELES--Lush green lawns, a symbol of the American way of life, are under attack in California, where “cash for grass” programs have sprouted like weeds amid a severe drought.

With the western U.S. state struggling to conserve water, locals are re-landscaping their outdoor spaces as attitudes shift about what constitutes an attractive yard.

And municipal monetary incentives — reflecting the dire circumstances depleting reservoirs and underground aquifers — are making it that much easier for many to make the switch.

Los Angeles, for example, is offering US$3 for every square foot of grass that is replaced with more water-efficient options such as drought-tolerant plants, rocks and pebbles.

Under the “Cash in Your Lawn” incentive, property owners can get up to US$6,000 for making the conversion.

“People forget we live in the desert — why do we try to make it the Midwest?” asked Larry Hall, a jazz musician and Los Angeles resident as he ripped up his front lawn to replace it with a more environmentally friendly one.

His wife Barbara said the city's program made it possible to actually follow through and foot the bill for the project.

“We've thought about it, we've had estimates on re-landscaping but they were a little bit too high,” she said. “So the rebate made it more of a reality.”

Similar programs have sprung up elsewhere in California as the three-year drought shows no signs of abating and threatens the water supply of the state's 38 million inhabitants.

Two weeks ago, Governor Jerry Brown took emergency measures aimed at the watering of lawns, forbidding residents from doing so more than twice a week.

He has also temporarily prohibited fines that some communities and homeowner associations typically impose on people who let their lawns turn brown during the summer months for tarnishing a neighborhood's image.

In local media, meanwhile, readers and editorials calling for banning the watering of lawns and especially golf courses have multiplied of late as farmers face restrictions.

'Traditional' Taking Backseat?

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A cyclist approaches the city of Glendora, east of Los Angeles, California on Tuesday, July 29. A Glendora resident made headlines recently after receiving a letter from the city threatening fines if they didn't water their lawn. The letter arrived the same day the state water conservation board approved daily fines of up to US$500 beginning on August 1st.

(AFP

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