As California’s drought continues, residents are doing their part, sometimes creatively, to conserve water. Gov. Jerry Brown recently admitted to skipping showers to cut down on his water use, but addressing California’s water crisis will take more than that.

A larger measure getting traction is legislation that would prevent homeowners associations (HOAs) from banning artificial grass lawns, which require no watering.

A Little History

In late May, the California Assembly voted to advance Assembly Bill 349, which would keep HOAs from penalizing homeowners who opt for a synthetic lawn. The bill is now in the Senate and, if approved there, will go to Gov. Brown to be signed into law or vetoed. This isn’t the first time, however, that the California legislature has tried to pass a law like this.

In both 2010 and 2011 laws that would require HOAs to allow synthetic lawns if residents wanted them were passed by the legislature, but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Brown respectively.

Why Now?

Lawmakers think the third time will be the charm to pass the law.

“I expect the Governor, given his commitment to changing behavior in this drought, probably will take a second look at it,” Assembly Bill 349 sponsor Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) told Consumer Affairs.

Since Gov. Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2011, California’s drought has worsened. In January 2015 Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency because of the water crisis and has issued a mandate to cut water usage by 25%.

Annually, one square foot of live grass needs about 37 gallons of water. The numbers quickly get large when you think about the amount of water one lawn uses in a year and then how many lawns there are in California.

Some California communities average over 400 gallons of daily water use in the summer thanks, in part, to lawn maintenance. Given the huge water savings that come with artificial grass, the switch makes sense for residents who don’t want to sacrifice their yards in the face of drought.

Opposition to Artificial

Many California homeowners who want to make the switch have been stymied by their HOAs. Some of that opposition may come from outdated notions about artificial grass.

Purchase Green keeps up with the latest technology in synthetic turf to make products that look and feel like the real thing. For HOAs concerned about maintaining a certain aesthetic in exclusive communities, artificial lawns allow residents to have green, lush yards while conserving water.

Advances in synthetic turf technology have also assuaged environmental concerns, which kept Assemblywoman Gonzalez from including artificial grass protections in another conservation bill last year. Gonzalez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she’s learned more about newer artificial grass technology and is convinced it will not have widespread negative environmental impacts.

Even when bans on artificial turf are on the books, some communities are looking the other way given the water savings. For 45 years Sacramento has had regulations against residents using synthetic turf in their front lawns. But the Governor’s mandate to decrease water usage has officials looking the other way.

“Currently artificial turf is prohibited by ordinance, however, given the current drought situation, it’s not being actively enforced,” Sacramento District 4 Director Consuelo Hernandez wrote in an email to Sacramento’s ABC affiliate. Director Hernandez added that he would like to see Sacramento’s law changed to allow for artificial turf.

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