Rip out lawns now, or pay later

To the editor: If California's drought lasts as long as the drought in Australia of the last decade, then we are not even halfway through it.

It's tough now, but a fifth or sixth year of drought will force even more difficult choices between what's most important to Californians personally and economically — between such things as long showers, lawns, sanitation, safe drinking water, an agricultural economy that has already lost 17,000 jobs and urban small businesses that depend on water.


More than half of urban water usage in California goes outside the home on landscaping. George Skelton made a stirring defense of nonnative ornamental lawns in his recent column ("Governor, show our lawns a little respect," May 6).But given the tough choices facing Californians, is that the first priority for scarce water?

That's the context for deciding what is most important. These aren't easy choices, but they are choices — and ones that will only get more difficult.

John Laird, Sacramento

The writer is California's secretary for natural resources.


To the editor: Although Skelton rightly points to agriculture as the main water over-user in California, his defense of the lawn is unconvincing.

Yes, playing outdoors is good for emotional health, but lawns aren't the only natural landscape. Nature deficits can be made up faster and fuller in the wild than in domesticated lawns. This state has an abundance of beautiful and useful plants that need little care to grow.

In addition, Skelton proposes half-measures, like halting new plantings of water thirsty crops, instead of suggesting ways to truly address the crisis. Our problem is a cultural arrogance that what has been done in other places should work anywhere.

There is ample precedent of tending to the wild landscape in ways that benefit both humans and wildlife. Planting truly American crops like sunflowers, nopals and agaves can give us roughly the same things at a fraction of the water use of grapes, pecans and certain vegetables.

Chase Brown, Rancho Santa Margarita

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