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Sonoma County Gazette
Water Droplet

How can we nurture our HAPPY home?

Feb 27, 2018
by Tish Levee


One way is to make sure as we plan our gardens this year so that we provide what all living beings need: water and clean air.

One wet winter does NOT end a five year drought.

So far the year it isn’t clear if we’re heading back into drought, but the rainfall totals are definitely below average, and the Sierra snowpack was at only 30% of its usual level before the heat wave we had recently. However, lots of people act as if another drought will never happen. Recently, I’ve seen at least two homes with lawn sprinklers running in the middle of the day. While that doesn’t actually violate the Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance here in Santa Rosa (water has to be running off into the street or gutters OR it’s rained in the last 48 hours), it definitely uses a lot more water than watering early in the day.

Lawns use 50% of all urban water in the summer. So, a really good plan is to remove your lawn and replace it with a drought-tolerant landscape—a xeriscape. Many local water providers have rebates and programs—check out For instance, the City of Santa Rosa offers Cash for Grass, a Free WaterSmart Checkup, and rebates for drip irrigation, graywater, and rainwater harvesting. It’s not easy to find these on their website, unless you go directly

Good News, Bad News.

Walking in my neighborhood last week, I saw one home where the sod had been replaced with a landscape using less water. (Several years ago Sonoma County Water Agency estimated it took about 2800 gallons/month of water to maintain 500 square feet of lawn versus 100 gallons/year for a xeriscape). So I was really heartened, until two days later when I walked by another house where workers were removing a xeriscape and replacing it with sod. I think some people just don’t get it.

Saving energy and reducing pollution. Removing lawns also reduces the cost of fertilizers and their chemical run-off, plus pollution from lawn mowers—while small, one lawn mower can produce as much pollution as 43 new cars driving 12,000 miles every year! So not only will you save money and water, you’ll help us to have cleaner air. What’s not to like?

What about new construction?

Santa Rosa’s Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance has some definite limits on new lawns, requiring that the grasses used meet certain standards of water efficiency. For those who are rebuilding in burn areas, the city is working with the Sonoma County Water Agency in developing ready-to-go landscaping plans which are water efficient, helping homeowners help get permits quickly to replace their burned-out landscapes.

To nurture our HAPPY home, we also need clean air.

According to the American Lung Association, in 2015 Californians suffered $15 billion in health costs due to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from passenger vehicles, including respiratory illness such as lung cancer and asthma, premature births, premature mortality, and lost workdays. Recently San Francisco Assembly Member Phil Ting introduced the Clean Cars 2040 Act (AB 1745), which would require all new passenger vehicles registered in California after January 1, 2040 tb to be zero-emissions. It wouldn’t force anyone to get rid of an existing gas-powered car, but it would mean there’d be many zero-emissions models from which to chose. California is a leader in reducing climate change and environmental protection. However, transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and 35% of them come from cars and light-duty trucks.The global auto market is shifting; many countries have implemented similar legislation, and it’s increasingly clear that zero-emission vehicles are the future. Long before 2040, market forces are likely to force the abandonment of fossil-fuel vehicles.

Center for Climate Protection’s rally in support of AB 1745. The Center has taken on the Clean Cars 2040 Act as a major mission. Register for a public rally to kick off this campaign at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., on March 22nd from 6:00-7:30 PM at

For the Planet - Tish Levee

©Tish Levee, 2018


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