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The California Lawn Suffers Another Blow

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The California Lawn Suffers Another Blow
The California Lawn Suffers Another Blow
GUESTS: Peter Brostrom, section chief, California Department of Water Resources Matthew Adams, vice president, Building Industry Association of San Diego Nan Sterman, host, KPBS television series "A Growing Passion"

I am Maureen Cavanaugh comments Monday, July 20. First up a few questions about are incredibly stormy wet weekend. Alex tardy forthe National Weather Service joins us and Alex, welcome. Good day, hi. This storm came from hurricane Dolores which noted one for Mexico. Is it over? It was a pretty while weekend starting off with Saturday morning lightning and all the rain we saw Saturday afternoon. Then more rain Sunday afternoon and evening. It looks like it is over. Dolores came up in it two pieces. We've got the monsoon on Saturday and then we've got the actual remnants of the optical system Dolores which is very usual on Sunday. Other than our mountains getting a few thunderstorms today, it looks like it is over with but we still have to deal with humidity. The rainfall totals are absolutely unprecedented for San Diego in July. Give us a sample. That is correct. Couldn't have said it better. An example for San Diego Lindbergh Field which is good representation of downtown San Diego and along climate record back to the 1800s, received 1.7 inches of rain over the course of the two days. That shatters old records that was about nine tenths, little about less than inch to put into perspective, most of us know July doesn't get a lot of rain on the coast, but to see that amount of rain 1.7 inches of rain he got more rain this weekend then we did between January and April of this year. Was him to catch a lot of us off guard with this storm is the amount of thunder and lightning strikes. It there were over 500 lightning strikes in San Diego. Is that part of the tropical nature of the storm? It is. When we see these will keep tropical moisture surge is coming up whether they are with that working, remnants or not, it shows the power of that tropical moisture how unstable it is and you can get a lot like we salt on June 30 as well where we had 650 strikes on June 30 in San Diego County so in this event it was similar. The difference in this event was really the rainfall. The amount and how widespread it was. Alex, is this connected to El Niño? It is a question, we think about, we discussed, we research and directly be sure answer is no. We had warm sea surface temperatures in the Baja region and that's really what this is connected to. This warm temperatures were already there last summer sold directly to El Niño, no. But in terms of the tires Pacific ocean having above normal sea surface temperatures, that's good to be take back to your to getting this type of moisture. Alex, longtime San Diegans have noticed that for the past several years are Summers have gotten more humid. Nights have gotten warmer. The chance of thunderstorms has increased along the coast yet this storm is called an anomaly. Isn't it really more on a trajectory of how our weather is changing? It is a good point because we have seen early what we're seeing is more extremes. We had the warmest March on record. We had one of the driest January and February's on record and then we had the second wettest May and now we have the wettest July. So we are seeing anomalies on either and, dry, wet, warm, cold and not just here in California, it is across the North America so it is hard to see if it is a real change, but we have been able to show that humidity and low temperatures which are affected by humidity so not been able to pull off at night are definitely been on the increase over the past several years and that's been able to and regimented and research, a lot of it is associative want to choose and the ocean. Finally, what's the chance of anymore summer downpours for us? This good chance because it is only July and our typical peak for this tropical moisture is August and early September. So given what's going on in the Pacific with not any signs of the Baja region cooling, the Baja region is really going to be -- from El Niño as well so there's a good chance and it is not uncommon, we've got to get the storm directed our way. To possibly see another tropical system but it is anyone's guess if it will be nearly the magnitude we saw this weekend of rain. It was very welcome drink but that really caused problems, San Diego River got almost up to 9 feet which is the highest it is been in the past several years even from our winter storms. That's amazing. I have been speeding with meteorologist Alex tardy of the national weather service, thank you so much. Thank you. Our top story on Midday Edition, row after row of new houses with beautiful lush green lawns, that used to be the image of the ideal building development in California but that's about to change. New state regulations will limit the amount of turf and almost -- in most new let's can meet in both residential and commercial development. The move by the Company Water Commission is motivated by the state drought but it is also went out what many are calling the new normal, the actual a non-native and drought tolerant plants to reflect the realities of our natural limit. On the line with me now is Peter Brostrom, he is Section chief of the water use efficiency section of the Department of water resources and Peter, welcome to the program. Peter, are you with us? Okay, we will hope to hear from Peter about what the new landscaping rules are. As result of Governor Brown's Executive Order on the drought in April. Peter, are you on the line with us? Okay. In the studio with me now is Matthew Adams, Vice President of the building industry Association of San Diego. Matthew, welcome to the program. Thank you. And Nan Sterman is garden designer, author but listed this supposedly KPBS television series a growing passion. Nan, welcome. Thank you. The water use, the new restrictions will limit really construct homes to have 25% of their landscaped area as grass and the rest should be native plants, drought tolerant, the people have a choice but it cannot be grass. How different is that, Matthew? It is different compared to what we have done in the past but different doesn't necessarily mean bad. It means something new and exciting and unique. So weare prepared to comply in implement these requirements because let's be clear, we have a water concern and a water shortage and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to build upon the water efficiency we already see with the interior of the buildings go we're going to take that out to the exterior of the buildings as well. Nan, what is your take on the new landscaping rules because is this just what we need or is it just a first start? That's really good question. I think we needed and I think it is a first start. We already had some limitations that were imposed a couple of years ago, limitations on grass, turf with him at 230% coverage for new residential. So this is not 25%, it is not that big a change, but he is it is going in the right direction and it is not just grass that is addressed in the new ordinance, there's also we water, there's also high-efficiency your addition, these are all things that are really, really important for us to be adopting and using more in our landscapes. Peter Brostrom is on the line with this on the Department of water resources of company. Peter, welcome. Thank you. Let me take you through some nuts and bolts of this new regulation requirement. Is it for new single-family houses of a certain dimension of landscaping, right? How much landscaping is under these new requirements? I think it covers we lowered the threshold from before it was 2500 square feet down to 500 square feet for projects so it would only be a very small landscape, new landscape project that would not be covered by these requirements. What about multi family units? Those are not covered, commercial, institutional, all are covered by the ordinance. Are these new requirements the same across the whole state? Yes. How about people and existing homes? What they be affected by these changes? No, it doesn't apply to existing homes unless it is a very large project that requires a building permit. Peter, why were these requirements and meant it? Is this of a direct result of Governor Brown's Executive Order on the drought? Yes. Is April 1 press conference directed us to revise the ordinance to look at adjusting the water budget to limit the use of high water used plants to look at occluding graywater, storm water capture as well. Then develop some reporting requirements for local agencies on their implementation of the ordinance. How much less water is projected that these new requirements will use as opposed to traditional landscaping? The residential level, the water budget has been reduced by 20% so landscape will use 20% less. We've estimated that differs across the state but on average could be as much as 12,000 gallons a year. Onthe commercial level it is higher, is a 35% reduction and a significant savings there. Peter 20 Mac for joining us, I appreciate it. Okay. Let me go back to Matthew Adams, vice President of the building industry Association San Diego. I have read Matthew that some in the building industry see these landscaping rules under development. Too restrictive and obligated, what's your opinion? If there are concerns it is the overall cost associated with regulations in general with the construction of new homes. We are all familiar with the respect to that came out from -- University that says 40% of the cost new home construction is directly related to government regulations and fees. So every time you add on a new requirement it adds to the cost of construction which puts more and more families out of reach of the being able to afford a home in not only in San Diego but the state. There's always concerns in that regard. Nan, is changing your landscaping from turf to let's say native plants or drought tolerant plants, is that an expensive Proposition? If you write changing landscape anytime you make a change there's an investment required. Is it an expensive Proposition? That depends on your standard and the other thinks he have to look at the upfront investment over the long-term cost. You arepaying somebody to maintain your lawn on a weekly basis. You are paying for fertilizers, pesticides and water. But most people areaccustomed to doing that. But then what to do make that change the ongoing maintenance for plants and otherwise is minimal. The need for pesticides and fertilizers essentially goes way. Your water investment is minimal. You have to look at it from a bigger picture than just is it expensive. Nan and read that some critics are saying that some people will forgo lawns and native landscaping all together. They will put in rock or artificial turf and create heat islands and maybe even dust storms in urban environments. What is your take on that? I cringe when I see rocks or artificial turf. Theheat issue a significant I don't know about the dust storms but really the goal is not to be please living plants with nonliving services. Artificial turf is a whole major concern for number of reasons not the least of which is what you do with it at the end of its eight to 15 year lifespan? There's all kinds of issues. Rocks, I don't know what to do so I am going to put rocks in here and it is ugly and it is hot. There's so many beautiful wonderful easy to care for low-water plants the water plant that can go in place of TERP that it makes be really sad when I see those things to go it is not taking us in the right direction. It is taking us in the wrong direction. FQ, how has the industry been changing landscape in over the years? Is this going in the same direction as the direction the industry has been going when it comes to putting in landscaping under development? Sure. Things have been changing in that regard. One of the main reasons for it is frankly is we are transitioning and have transitioned into more multi family development rather than the traditional single-family which is put your backyard sidewalk, now it is multi family and the demands for landscaping are much less within multifamily developments going on in San Diego. Last year Anne Fegely going back 10 years or five or six years from now we have seen 2/3 of all new permits have been for multi family housing. How will builders be working with landscapers took office these new changes? It always is part of this process to design and to develop and you have landscape architects and we have to get landscape permits and so it is just Incorporated into the process on the availability of California friendly plants and native plants and the like. It will just be part of a process that already occurs. We are just have a different components to it because you are talking about native plants in California family plan. How available are being? I would imagine over the past several years the availability of drought tolerant plants, native plants, it becomes more popular they must be more available. Absolutely. What Matthew was talking about is changing the plant palette. It is time to do that. We have been needed to do this. I've been talking about this for long time. It is true that five years ago, eight years ago it was difficult to find these plants even a few years ago, but the nursery industry is hearing what we are saying and they are seeing what's happening around and they are responding as well. It takes longer, the nursery industry had moved towards national plant pellets rather than regional but they are beginning to see they have go back to regional because that's what works in each region. Our plant pellets are becoming broader and those thirsty plants are slowly taking up less shelf room in the nurseries. A last quick question to you Nan, many of our public buildings are going to be devoid of ornamental lamps of any kind because of our crowds. Is that the right decision were is there a way to have ornamental plants without straining our water supply? I hope that's not true because we absolutely have to have one, to plants. Ornamental plants are what create the beauty around us with the buildings are lovely but without the softening effect of the plants then they are not so beautiful, but plants are also important because they sequester carbon and generate the oxygen we breathe, the Couillard environment. We have to have plants in our lives and there was poor the pollinators. If you want to have food no caps on place those pollinators live with their are not crops available. It is a verycomplex system if we don't have plants in our environment we have a very difficult situation on our hands. After ended there. I've been speaking with Nan Sterman, garden designer and host of the KPBS television series a growing passion and Matthew Adams, Vice President of the building industry Association of San Diego. Thank you very much. Thank you.

The California Water Commission has adopted stricter limits on the amount of natural turf used to landscape both residential and commercial development.

The rules stipulate that only 25 percent of the landscaped area for new homes can be used for grass. That's down from about 33 percent under the old rules, which remain in effect through November.

But beginning in December, developers will have to change the way their projects are landscaped. Homeowners who remodel more than 2,500 square feet of yard will also be held to the 25 percent standard.

Peter Brostrom, section chief for the California Department of Water Resources, said limiting grass in residential properties to 25 percent is expected to save an average of 12,000 gallons a year per household.

Brostrom, who told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday that the change is a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive orders, said existing homes will not be affected unless the homes are remodeled in a way that needs a building permit.

“It’s certainly different from what we had in the past,” said Matthew Adams, vice president of the Building Industry Association of San Diego. “But different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. We’re prepared to comply because, let’s be clear, we have a water shortage.”

Adams said homeowners who have applied water conservation efforts to the interiors of their homes will now just carry out those efforts to the exteriors of their homes.