OC water district brings California native landscapes to yards saving water through rebate program

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) -- The Moulton Niguel Water District is teaching people how to drought-proof their lawns, and has homeowners relaxing in a serene, environmentally-friendly space, while saving money.

It's a new look Dennis Ghan of Laguna Niguel and his wife enjoy daily.

"Just coming and going, and seeing it all the time out here," Ghan said. "We get a lot of compliments from people that come over to our house."

Three years earlier it was just a lawn and hedge. That was around the start of the Moulton Niguel Water District's NatureScape Program.

The Ghans and their neighbors form some of the 100 participants that have transformed their lawns into California native landscapes, saving water, time and money.

The package includes a rebate for turf removal and half-off design costs.

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Outdoor watering restrictions area set to take effect in Los Angeles at the end of the month, and the prospect of an improvement in drought conditions appears dim.

"It used to be lawn out here that took watering several times a week, and now we just water it once every three weeks," Ghan said.

The water district President, Brian Probolsky, said with their customers using 40% of water outdoors, it was the perfect place to cut back.

The Coastal Fire that burned in Laguna Niguel in mid-May, serves as an excellent example of the increasing need to conserve water.

Probolsky says the district plans ahead for fire protection, but it helps when everyone works together towards a common goal, as climate change turns fire season year-round.

"Everybody can do their own part. If you see a fire in your neighborhood, in your region, start by just turning off your own water, saving that pressure for the firefighters," Probolsky said.

Creating this environmentally-conscious, serene space also helps the community. The district has a water-budget-based rate structure.

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This means outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days per week based on street addresses beginning June 1.

The water district's General Manager, Joone Kim Lopez, said those who use under budget help the dollars saved stay here through rebates and partnerships like those offered through the NatureScape Program.

"We reinvest that money back into our community to be resilient and reliable because we know that with climate change the dryer spells are getting longer," Kim Lopez said. "It's happening more frequently and we really have to have a sustainable approach to making sure that we're efficient."

Probolsky says it's about more than water use reduction.

"We're restoring nature back to the way it was," Probolsky said. "It's not just about the plants and the saving water, we're bringing animals back in."

Before homeowners get too deep into the program, they do have to sit through a free two-hour workshop to make sure they really want to commit through the entire process.

Anyone interested in doing something like this can check with their local water district. A lot of them offer similar programs.

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