View Mobile Site
  • Home
  • Marketplace
  • Community
  • Gas Prices


Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Green vs. brown: Saving SCV lawns

Local water officials and garden experts offer garden survival tips

Posted: July 31, 2014 4:14 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2014 4:14 p.m.

A stark white line - and an obvious difference in watering policy - separate two yards in a residential area of Canyon Country on Thursday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze

View More »

With restricted watering schedules for Santa Clarita Valley’s lawns and gardens looking likely, local water officials and garden experts have some recommendations for homeowners in need of a lawn survival guide.

A plan released this week would have homeowners allowed to water their yards only three days a week during the six warmer months of the year and just twice a week during the two cooler months.

While the plan hasn’t been formally adopted yet — that’s up to a vote of the individual water districts’ boards of directors — the plan was hammered out by a committee that represented all Santa Clarita Valley districts.

The big question that seems to be on residents’ minds is: Is watering every other day enough to maintain a healthy green lawn?

Some landscapers say no, some — along with water officials — say yes.

“Sadly, there is no way possible to have a healthy lawn if you water it only three times a week,” said Brent Green of Green Landscape Nursery on Thursday. “Watering three times a week is not even close to what you need — especially in this heat.

“If I give you a big glass of water, you wouldn’t last two days in this heat,” he said. “Your lawn is no different.”

Dirk Marks, water resources manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, disagrees.

“Yes, most of the lawns will survive” the limited watering schedule, he said Thursday. “If you have multiple (sprinkler) start times so that you avoid runoff, then yes.”

Most Santa Clarita Valley lawns sit on heavy clay soil, Marks said, and those lawns require about 60 minutes a week of watering. So watering only three days a week means watering 20 minutes for each day allowed.

The trick to maintaining a lawn on a tight water budget is to water a little several times a day — preferably five minutes of watering, four times a day, he said.

John Windsor, horticultural consultant for Green Thumb Nursery in Newhall, agreed with Marks.

“These are the same water restrictions the city of L.A. imposed, and the people there have done all right.”

His lawn survival tip: “Put small clear drinking cups on the lawn, water for 10 minutes and see how much water falls in the cups,” Windsor said. “It will tell you how many minutes to operate your sprinkler.”

Matching its advice, the Castaic Lake Water Agency offers a device that enables lawn owners to avoid possible water-wasting fines and to meet a three-day watering schedule — and it’s free.

Smart sprinkler
Unofficially, it’s called the smart sprinkler; officially, it’s the weather-based irrigation controller.

By providing Santa Clarita Valley residents with free smart irrigation controllers that automatically adjust watering times and take into account actual weather conditions, the device enables residents to typically save about 10 percent of their water over the course of a year, Marks said.

The sprinkler controllers save more than half an acre-foot of water per device over 10 years, he said.

During the past four years, the agency — through contract firm Specialized Landscape — has distributed more than 2,300 “weather-based irrigation controllers” throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. On average, that means a dozen water-wasting lawns have been transformed into water-saving lawns every week since 2010.

“The controller, a mini weather station, and modules retails for over $600,” Marks said. “It’s a great deal for Santa Clarita residents. And all SCV residents have to do is take an online course that explains the devices’ operation to qualify.”

For anyone thinking of avoiding possible water fines by cashing in on the agency’s other drought-driven promotion — the Lawn Replacement Program — residents are reminded they must already have a lawn to replace, not just a dirt lot.

Lawn replacement
The Lawn Replacement Program offers homeowners $2 for every square foot of lawn they remove from their home, Marks said. Participants stand to receive up to $5,000 per property under the program.

“The program is designed to encourage those that currently have lawns to reduce their water usage by making other landscaping choices,” Marks said Thursday.

To date, at least 25 homeowners have swapped lawns for cash since the program was launched in early July, he said.

For more information on the Lawn Replacement Program, smart sprinklers or other water-saving tips, visit the Castaic Lake Water Agency website at
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...