Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sued for Conserving Water?

Photo courtesy: Care2

It's one of those snafus that only government authorities can create. One that causes you to shake your head and wonder how red tape can promote such idiocy.

Governor Schwarzenegger has always tried to do the environmentally-friendly thing when it comes to making decisions that affect Californians. Now it would seem that the bureaucrats in Orange, California are determined to undo a bit of the progress the Governor has made conserving some of the Earth's precious resources.

Quan and Angelina Ha recently had a baby girl. Along with the baby came a change of thinking for the Has. They started re-evaluating their lifestyle, their priorities, and their personal responsibilities in trying to halt global warming. Mr. Ha explains: "We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future."

Commendable, one would think. However, the city of Orange has threatened them with a lawsuit over the state of their lawn. What could they have possibly done to their lawn that would cause the city to consider a lawsuit against them, you ask. The answer will surprise you.

Angelina and Quan Ha walk through their frontyard with daughter Zella. After the city informed them that their property was not up to code, they added bark, fencing and drought-tolerant plants. Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Times (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times / February 25, 2010)

It all started two years ago when the Has decided to remove all the grass in their yard in an effort to help safeguard their daughter's future. The city complained - the dirt was unacceptable. The Has, conscientious citizens, covered the entire yard with wood chips in an attempt to comply with the city's request.

Not having to water their thirsty yard had the potential to save tens of thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. It seemed the environmentally responsible thing to do. After all, California is one of the most drought-affected states in the USA. Three years of successive drought has lowered the reservoirs to a critical level.

Water is a key political and economic issue in California, as in other parts of the Southwest. There is ongoing wrangling between agricultural and residential water interests, and concern grows that water will be the new oil, a conflict-prone linchpin and threat for the long-term viability of the state.

But city officials determined the wood chip fix was not acceptable. They pointed to a city ordinance that says that 40% of the yard be landscaped predominantly with live plants.

"Compliance, that's all we've ever wanted," said Senior Assistant City Atty. Wayne Winthers.

Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city; and, still maintain an almost water-free yard by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery -- lavender, rosemary, horsetail and pittosporum, among others.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Quan and Angelina Ha reduced their annual water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009: an 80% savings. Quan Ha pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor for violating county codes.

Now, here comes the rub. A California Public Policy Institute report estimates that more than half of all residential water used is wasted on lawn and outdoor plant care. California's Water Use Efficiency website urges conservation efforts, including: "Water-efficient landscape designs using low water-use plants" and "Minimized turf areas."

Ironically, by abiding by the recommendations of the state water agency, the Ha family leaves itself open to prosecution by the city.

I wonder what Governor Schwarzenegger would think?

Via Care2 and Los Angeles Times

1 comment:

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