Do I hear three dollars?

Click on the checklist to be taken to the Long Beach lawn-to-garden program website

Las Vegas topped the regional cash-for-grass payout rate with $2 per square foot (now down to $1.50) until the City of Long Beach today announced that it will be offering $2.50 per square foot up to $2,500 for qualifying homeowners.

The calculus behind this sort of bribery is that it is cheaper for a Western water authority to pay homeowners to remove turf and replace it with a drought tolerant garden rather than for the city to vie with competitors for ever more water from an ever shrinking common pool.

Beyond the decision to increase the bounty on turf, what sets Long Beach’s program apart from, say, the cash-for-grass scheme launched by the City of Los Angeles last June is an enviable combination of conviction and competence.

While the City of Los Angeles sat on its

The Dry Garden: Eco-snooping

Yes, yes, yes. We all know that native gardens save water, curb greenhouse gas pollution, save homeowners thousands a year on mow and blow fees and entitle their owners to eco-sainthood. But what do they look like? Are they beautiful? If so, are they hard to plant and maintain? Where can you put down the baby? Will those who might want one still be allowed a patch of lawn?

To help Los Angeles homeowners see the almost endless possibilities open after they start incorporating local flora into their gardens, the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants calls upon its members every spring to open their homes to the public. The upshot is a tour in which the smartest, most experienced native gardeners in Southern California get down with whoever shows up asking for help.

Click here to keep reading the first of a three part series as the

The anguish of spring

National Weather Service Graphical Forecast detail for Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 2010 as issued on March 26, 2010. Click on the map to be taken to the interactive tool.

Updated 4/1/2010. Earlier this week, this site carried an explanation of why what was supposed to be a wetter than normal year turned out to be a slightly drier one in Southern California. Yet almost immediately meteorologists spotted what may be our last rain of the season. Ken Clark has a chatty explanation on AccuWeather. For those whose hearts only beat faster when presented with cold hard graphics, a similar prediction may be found at NOAA’s Digital Forecast Database. Click on your region, then on the day in the Probability of Precipitation panel. For Los Angeles, the screen tops 50% chance of rain for the evening of Wednesday, March 31st.

Will it come? The anguish of spring in


Big problem, big title. The US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water has issued the National Water Program Response to Climate Change report for 2009. Click here for highlights or to read the full report.

The water issue

Print editions of National Geographic’s special issue “Water: Our Thirsty World” (now online) will be on newsstands on March 30th. An accompanying exhibit opens at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles on March 27th. Among the features is “California’s Pipe Dream,” written by Joel K. Bourne, Jr with photographs by Edward Burtynsky.

Bourne opens, “On a blistering day in the megalopolis that is southern California, Shivaji Deshmukh of the Orange County Water District offers me a cup of cool, clear water that just yesterday was swirling around in an Anaheim toilet bowl … After spending the past century building one of the most elaborate water-delivery systems on the planet replete with giant pumps and thousands of miles of pipes and canals, California has come to this — akin to the last desperate act of lifeboat-bound sailors drinking their own bodily fluids.”

Once a body of water

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