Tear out your lawn, save California

A woman stands in a garden full of flowers.
Sarah Lariviere and her husband removed their front and back lawns by themselves, replacing them with drought-tolerant plants. A Metropolitan Water District of Southern California rebate paid for the $4,700 project.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
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In case you missed the memo: Glossy green lawns fed by sprinklers arcing water into the sky just don’t work anymore in these days of lingering drought.

As the supply of water in reservoirs and wells continues to shrink around California, we need to change what and how we’re irrigating.

Public parks might arguably be good locations for large expanses of turf in Southern California’s low-rain climate, but around our houses? That’s become a pipe dream this summer for many Angelenos whose outdoor water use has been curtailed to a few minutes a week, not nearly enough to keep a lawn alive, let alone green.

Water districts are offering rebates for removing lawns, but many won’t give you money for installing artificial turf (which keeps water from flowing into the ground, potentially killing trees and beneficial micro-organisms in the soil) or a bunch of rocks and a couple of cacti. Instead, you must include drought-tolerant plants and an efficient way to keep them watered, such as drip irrigation.


The Times has been speaking to L.A. County residents who’ve taken out their lawns and transformed their yards into fragrant, leafy, low-water paradises — often with a DIY approach.

Yes, it takes work, but these yard converts rave about lower water bills, tackling climate change head on, the pride they felt after accomplishing a daunting task and finding serenity in the process. Let these stories of ripping out lawns guide and inspire as you reconsider your own landscaping plans.

As the drought continues, Californians are tearing out their lawns. Here’s a DIY guide to killing grass to prep for a drought-tolerant landscape.

VIDEO | 04:51
LA Times Today: This Pasadena resident paid to remove her grass lawn. Here’s the result

Watch L.A. Times Today at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or live stream on the Spectrum News App. Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County viewers can watch on Cox Systems on channel 99.