Going brown to go green in San Bernardino

SAN BERNARDINO With electric-powered lawnmowers, solar-powered sprinkler systems and drought-tolerant plants, this garden is the latest in San Bernardino County's efforts to go green.

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Ironically, they're doing so by going away from green. This half-acre plot of land used to be covered solely with grass. Now it's covered with drought-tolerant plants and slow-growth grass. With these changes, county officials say they can save more than 1 million gallons of water every year on this parcel of land alone.

"We wanted to save water. It's important to save water, but it's also important to learn," said David Gibson, director of facilities management, San Bernardino County. "It's important to figure out what's going on to figure out what we can do as we migrate this out into other county facilities as we redevelop landscape areas or as the county grows and we build new projects, we put in things that we know will work."

It is also somewhat of an experiment. There are five different kinds of grasses in use here. The goal: Cut water use dramatically, and find out which kinds of grass do the best in the scorching summer sun. In theory, they say drought-tolerant grass can cut water use by 40 percent.

With drip-watering systems and some special mulch, California-friendly landscaping can save even more water. They say this mulch actually insulates the plants.

"It's time to cut back," said Keith Evans, San Bernardino County. "More housing tracts are opening up, and there's going to be a water shortage soon. And we buy our water from up north, and it's going to be expensive one day."

With 75 percent of residential water use going toward landscaping, the county is hoping this garden will be an example for everyone to learn from.


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