Drought Challenges Intensify in California

On April 1, Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water use reductions for the first time in California's history, signing an executive order imposing a 25 percent reduction on the state's 400 local water supply agencies. The reductions are summarized in a press release from the governor's office and are making headlines in the New York Times and other major media across the country.

This was just the latest action taken to address the four-year drought, which is reaching near-crisis proportions. Following California’s driest January in recorded history, with no relief in sight, the State Water Resources Control Board of California’s Environmental Protection Agency adopted an expanded emergency regulation on water use. According to the United States Drought Monitor, although most regions of the state have shown minimal improvement since the beginning of the calendar year, areas experiencing “exceptional drought” have worsened. In January, the governor had already declared a drought state of emergency.

Reductions in water use, including restrictions on watering lawns in a manner that results in excessive run-off and irrigation of ornamental landscapes within 48 hours of rainfall, were mandated in March. Water conservation emergency regulations were first instituted last July.

“Outdoor irrigation represents 50 to 80 percent of all water use for some communities in the state. Irrigating outdoor ornamental landscapes is a questionable use of a limited resource when some communities are running out of water in this fourth consecutive year of drought. Urban water suppliers must now limit the number of days per week that customers can irrigate outdoors.” – California Water Boards

The new regulations pose a challenge to everyone in the state. Gardeners and landscapers can find that choosing plants that are appropriate to the region’s Mediterranean climate also present unexpected pleasures, however. Since last fall, the Los Angeles Times Home & Garden section has been publishing special features on gardening during a drought, including this photo gallery of beautiful California natives — many of which require little irrigation. Sunset magazine also provides several guides for water-wise designs that feature many inspiring gardens.

Indeed, the Ruth Bancroft Garden, our very first preservation garden, located in Walnut Creek, CA, has served as a stellar example of designing and landscaping with water-conserving plants since its founder bought her first succulent in the 1950s.

COMING SOON: Open Days in Southern California

Coming up in April and May are two Open Days tours that showcase gardens in Southern California, including 7 gardens in Pasadena, Sierra Madre and San Gabriel (Sunday, April 26) and 5 gardens in Los Angeles (Sunday, May 3), including Grow Native Nursery, anonprofit nursery in the Veterans Garden in West Los Angeles that specializes in environmentally friendly and sustainable California native plants.

Photo by Marion Brenner of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek, CA

Earlier News Articles
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Water-wise and Wonderful

Garden Conservancy Fellow Donivee Nash's water-wise garden

is featured in the April 2015 issue of Martha Stewart Living.