Long Beach Showcases Water-Efficient, Drought-Tolerant Gardens


Connecting state and local government leaders

Just because California's drought has eased, that doesn't mean urban lawn-to-garden landscaping has to go out of style.

The city of Long Beach has the tough task of keeping up with neighboring Los Angeles, the self-proclaimed “most water-efficient big city in America,” in the midst of a California drought emergency.

Sure the state’s snowpack is 158 percent of normal and California no longer is in any stage of drought severity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association , but World Water Day brings out the competition in every water-conscious city.

Since 2014, when the state’s drought emergency was declared, Angelenos have reduced their water usage by 21 percent.

Long Beach, meanwhile, is practicing water conservation in its own way with the Water Department bringing in four designers to landscape water-efficient, drought-tolerant demonstration gardens.

Most residents want low-maintenance, lush, green landscaping unlike a desert’s, and the city’s Lawn-to-Garden Turf Replacement program aims to subsidize just that. Applicants receive up to $3,750 for replacement and an additional $750 if they install a “smart” drip irrigation system.

Currently, half of the average Long Beach resident’s water usage goes toward landscape irrigation, when gardens reduce water use per square foot by at least 70 percent.

Demonstration gardens the city offers include varying degrees of foliage and hardscape elements, the latter decreasing the need to water gardens.

Succulent plants require the least water, as do agaves and aloes low on spines like the “blue glow” agave. Another Long Beach Water option is the grassy, NorCal approach complete with a dry river bed and native landscape.

Residential gardens are the perfect fit for the small, long beachfront yards the city is known for, and they boost property value—another selling point.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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