The continuing drought in California is convincing builders to modify what they offer prospective homebuyers in the way of landscaping.
In Fresno, Granville Homes has been making synthetic turf standard in all front yards since May. That costs the builder six times as much as genuine turf but it looks a lot more appealing than grass turned brown by a lack of rain and lower groundwater supplies. Homebuyers can still get real grass as an option.
Fresno is an inland city of a half-million people about halfway between Bakersfield and Sacramento in the Central Valley. The average high temperature is 96°F in July, and annual precipitation averages just under 13 inches. This year, rainfall has totaled just 3.75 inches, according to the University of California.
That’s left a lot of conventional plantings begging for water.
“Brown lawns are convincing buyers that this is a good way,” Granville President Darius Assemi told The Fresno Bee. “Our goal is to have completed neighborhoods that are timeless, that look attractive now and in the years and decades to come.”
Other builders in the area also are offering artificial grass as an option and looking for more drought-tolerant plantings, according to the Bee. But Granville Homes is apparently the first to make the fake turf a standard feature on single-family lots.
It’s not, however, Granville’s first foray into water conservation or energy conservation. Within the last few years, it has added irrigation systems that adjust themselves to the weather, preventing the sprinklers from starting when it’s raining, for example. Its “Eco-Smart” homes have R-40 ceilings, rigid foam over blown-in insulation in R-28 exterior walls, and rooftop photovoltaic panels.
The front yards at Granville homes are between 500 and 600 square feet, and may also include drought-tolerant shrubs and two trees per house that are watered by a drip irrigation system.
Fresno getting tough on water
Granville’s move to artificial turf is part of a bigger picture of aggressive water conservation in the city.
According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, the city is taking a much more forward approach to water monitoring than most other California cities.
A team of city water watchers is on the hunt for flagrant water violators and was responsible for 374 of the 838 penalties handed out by California water districts in a single month — more than 44 percent. The city was able to scale back water use by 33 percent last month, far above Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for a 25 percent cutback in urban water use.
There’s a good reason. Fresno’s groundwater dropped by 4 feet last summer, The Times reported, and allocations of imported, stored water dropped sharply. In August, lawn watering was restricted to twice a week.
According to the newspaper, the city’s new mantra is “Don’t frown on brown.”