Lawns are one culprit in water pollution

The U.S. Supreme Court this week heard arguments regarding whether the Los Angeles County Flood Control District bears responsibility for addressing pollutants found in the county’s storm water, even when the source of the pollutants has not been identified. On a related issue, many GNP readers have likely received the District’s official notice regarding its proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure, which would assess property owners an annual fee for water quality improvement projects.

It’s time for all property owners to help protect water quality, by reducing pollutants that flow from our properties into storm drains and eventually to the ocean. There are the obvious culprits, such as improperly disposed motor oil and other chemicals, and animal waste and other trash swept into the streets. But our lawns are also a significant and under-recognized source of pollutantsthat in their typical incarnation are not environmentally sustainable.

In this semi-arid region our reliance upon local groundwater is increasing. But much of this is contaminated, requiring very costly treatment. Reducing unnecessary uses of water is imperative. Consider that every gallon of water delivered to your home is potable or treated drinking water. Are lawns really the best use of this resource? Until affordable, easily-permitted gray water systems are readily available, there are alternatives.

A native and drought-tolerant landscape that dramatically reduces water consumption and eliminates the need for fertilizers, while supporting native animal and insect species, is one of the best.

In some desert areas, where water supplies are especially precarious, some municipalities are paying homeowners who remove their lawns. Giving up lawns will help extend our water supply, eliminate many lawn mowers and reduce the amount of pollution traveling via storm water to the ocean. I encourage the city of Glendale to phase in an incentive-based lawn-reduction program.

Jennifer Pinkerton

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