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California turns to fake grass in response to drought

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

After four blistering years of drought in California, more people are doing it. The fake grass business is booming, much to the chagrin of some environmentalists and live-grass purists.  But on the other hand this is to the delight of many turf grass companies, water conservationists, environmentalist and law makers.  We have covered the many different ways the drought has effected local and large scale business including the agricultural industry.  Many of these stories were about how the drought has hurt business bit today we look at how the artificial turf industry is booming due to the drought.

Complete numbers are hard to come by, but the makers and installers of synthetic turf say they are experiencing an unprecedented spike in residential business in California. From middle-class families who don’t want to forfeit the patch-of-green part of the American Dream to celebrities and the rich who are mortified by TV coverage of their sprawling water-hog lawns, homeowners across the Golden State are ripping up their lawns and replacing it with synthetic and drought tolerant plants.

The benefits of fake grass are hard to deny. Live grass guzzles some 2,200 litres per square ft annually, making the all-American lawn increasingly expensive with skyrocketing water rates and excessive-use penalties. Over the past two months, since governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and decreed that water use be cut by 25% this year, synthetic turf companies report an avalanche of interest.

In many parts of the state, the trend is being fuelled by cash rebates of up to $40 per square metre for installing low-water (or no-water) landscaping. The vast majority of rebate-takers go the more natural – and cheaper – route of shrubs and succulents, but a growing number of homeowners are paying more than $100 per square meter to instal turf.

For people who want to play with their children – soccer, baseball, Frisbee – they can’t do that in a front yard with cactus.

To be sure, fake grass  has its critics. Santa Monica, for instance, will not approve rebates for homeowners who install it. Sacramento and Glendale have long banned the installation of artificial turf in front lawns, as have some homeowner associations, which view the product as tack.

But for all the critics there are armies of environmental minded people who love this turf transition.  Artificial grass can be made from soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles collected from national parks – an environmental bonus.  We hope the popularity of turf continues for many more homes to enjoy.

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