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Proposed bill would limit how California businesses water decorative lawns

Even if California is out of its drought, brown might still be the new green. 

A proposed state bill, AB-1572, would try to conserve water by banning companies and industrial areas from watering decorative lawns around their properties with potable water.

California put a similar rule in place in 2022, preventing commercial, industrial, and government agencies from using drinking water for upkeep of grass deemed non-functional or ornamental by regulators. The state legislature later extended that ban until June 2024.

But some lawmakers now want to make that rule permanent. That would mean a ban on using fresh water to keep up right-of-ways, as well as the lawns for strip malls, office parks, corporate campuses and schools. 

“If it’s not going to be utilized, why have it?” said Williemina Godinez from San Jose. “They’re going to need to water it, so we really, drastically need to save water somewhere.”

While some support the idea, others believe restrictions shouldn’t continue now that the drought is over. 

“I think we can be a little less aggressive when it comes to grass legislation. At the end of the day, grass looks nice. People have used it as a decoration for a long time,” said Michael Middleton of Morgan Hill. 

Under the bill, businesses could continue watering with non-potable, recycled water. Alternatively, they could replace lawns with drought-resilient landscapes. 

The bill would not affect residential lawns, parks, sports fields or golf courses. The watering of trees would also be unaffected. 

The Santa Clara Valley Water District backs the bill. 

“It just makes sense, our climate is getting hotter and drier,” said Matt Keller, a spokesperson for Valley Water. “We just got out of an extreme drought. Just a few years before we were in another historical, extreme drought. So we know this is the reality of water shortages here in California.” 

The district is also offering up to $100,000 in rebates to businesses that switch away from non-functional lawns. 

“We have another drought coming. We don’t know when, but we know it is coming for sure and we’re going to have to make changes there,” said Keller. 

AB-1572 has already passed through the Assembly and is headed for the Senate. 

If it becomes law, the bans would be rolled out in 2027.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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