The need to conserve water in Southern California has never been greater due to drought conditions and constant population growth. One of the most significant ways to save water is using sustainable landscaping practices.
These practices involve choosing types of plants that are suitable for California’s Mediterranean climate as well as appropriate irrigation systems. Sustainable landscaping can also significantly reduce air and water pollution and solid waste generation.
City Water Resource Specialist Kim O’Cain explained at the Grant Workshop on November 15 that “total water consumption in Santa Monica is 13 million gallons per day, and that the biggest water users are multi-family dwellings.” She also noted that the average single family home uses a total of 450 gallons per day and that 200 gallons of that total are used for landscaping purposes.
The City of Santa Monica has been operating a Sustainable Landscape Grant Program for the last five years in order to encourage homeowners and businesses to change to sustainable practices, and the City has recently expanded the program. Thus far there have been 51 participants.
The new program grants up to 106 applicants up to $5,000 on a first come, first served basis, until the funds run out. The grant is designed to pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of a project. Up to $3,500 of the $5,000 can be used for qualified irrigation equipment as specified in the City’s Green Building Ordinance (GBO). The remainder of the $5,000 (up to $1,500) can be used to purchase climate-appropriate plants. Rebates are also available in addition to the $5,000 for specific irrigation equipment. Information on the GBO, and sample irrigation and landscape plans can be found at smgreen.org.
All individuals, property owners, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and public agencies that are water customers in Santa Monica may apply. Any property within the City’s borders is eligible, including single-family, multi-family, commercial, and institutional properties. However, new construction and major remodel projects are not eligible.
Grant recipients are also required to have two inspections of their projects, one after installing, but before covering, underground pipes (lateral lines) and one after all the irrigation and plants have been installed.
O’Cain pointed out that the elements of a good project design in addition to the use of appropriate plants and irrigation systems could be rainwater recovery, permeable pavement, utilizing the characteristics of shade, attracting wildlife such as birds and insects to assist with pest management, and utilizing mulch to conserve soil moisture.
The City will be offering a series of Green Gardening Classes in 2009. The first one will be called “Lawn Be Gone” and it will be in January. Sign-ups for the class will be available through Santa Monica College’s Community Classes Department.
Additional information can be found at sustainablesm.org/landscape or by calling 310.458.8972 or 866.728.3229 or emailing [email protected]