Bev­erly Hills may go greener by go­ing brown

The China Post - - LIFE - BY SARA PUIG

With its lush shrubs and man­i­cured lawns, posh Bev­erly Hills is be­ing shoved some­where it’s never been — pinched by deep­en­ing drought, manda­tory cuts and now po­ten­tial fines. Even its mega-rich have had to shut the spigot, un­der fire for over-wa­ter­ing.

“The lady of the house now has come to terms. She is go­ing to let the gar­den die,” Mex­i­can-born long-time gar­dener Gil­berto, who de­clined to give his fam­ily name, told AFP, out­side an el­e­gant twos­tory home of an oc­to­ge­nar­ian sur­rounded by a wall of shrub­bery.

“She says that the im­por­tant thing now is to cut back. Be­cause this has be­come re­ally se­ri­ous,” he added, ad­just­ing his big straw hat to keep the scorch­ing sun out of his eyes.

Cal­i­for­nia is now in its worst drought since records be­gan, now in its fourth year. Reser­voirs are near­ing empty, agri­cul­ture has been hard hit.

For the in­hab­i­tants of this en­clave of ex­treme wealth, a wa­ter short­age usu­ally has meant they sim­ply paid more for the wa­ter they used — which might be more, in­stead of less.

But in the cri­sis — in this state which has a cli­mate rang­ing from Mediter­ranean to desert — has turned so harsh that Gov. Jerry Brown has or­dered 25-per­cent cuts in wa­ter use to try to put a dent in the cri­sis.

Cut­ting Back

On av­er­age wealth­ier neigh­bor­hoods like Bev­erly Hills con­sume three times more wa­ter than less af­flu­ent ones, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Los An­ge­les (UCLA).

“With in­come and wa­ter use so tightly bound to­gether, fur­ther in­cen­tive must be given to higher wa­ter users — and thus high­er­in­come cus­tomers — to con­serve more,” the study said.

Brown’s 25-per­cent re­duc­tions would be achieved by ramp­ing up en­force­ment to pre­vent waste­ful wa­ter use, while in­vest­ing in tech­nolo­gies de­signed to make Cal­i­for­nia more drought-re­silient.

The or­der also set out new mea­sures to re­duce wa­ter use, in­clud­ing the re­place­ment of 50 mil­lion square feet (4.6 mil­lion square me­ters) of lawns with drought­tol­er­ant land­scap­ing.

It can be a tough sell for peo­ple with plenty to spend. And many Amer­i­cans who de­vel­oped Cal­i­for­nia came from the wet­ter U.S. East, used to rolling lawns, hedges and flower beds.

But “re­ally, ev­ery­one here has got the mes­sage on what is hap­pen­ing” in terms of drought, said Ones­imo Jau­regui, an­other gar­dener from Mex­ico, hose in hand, care­fully wa­ter­ing plants in front of an­other man­sion.

“For some weeks now, the peo­ple who live around here have been wa­ter­ing less. A lot of them are putting gravel ev­ery­where the green used to be,” he said.

Fines or Fine-tun­ing?

As he said, many Bev­erly Hills res­i­dents have started giv­ing some thought to the cri­sis. And some have re­duced the time ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are run.

Oth­ers have opted to re­place some of their plant­ings with oth­ers that have deeper roots and look fine with less fre­quent wa­ter­ing.

But get­ting out of the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can mind­set of homes need­ing big lawns and gar­dens re­mains a chal­lenge.

“It is a huge cul­ture change — and a way of think­ing,” said Tr­ish Ray, with the city of Bev­erly Hills’ public works of­fice.

“What we have to work on with our cit­i­zens is how do we re­de­fine what a gar­den city means,” she said. With some changes made, “it may look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but it’s just as beau­ti­ful.”

The move to fin­ing hasn’t started yet, but could soon if the sit­u­a­tion does not change.

Brown’s or­der also set out new mea­sures to re­duce wa­ter use, in­clud­ing the re­place­ment of 50 mil­lion square feet (4.6 mil­lion square me­ters) of lawns with drought­tol­er­ant land­scap­ing.

AFP/AP

(Above) Gar­dener Jose En­riquez trims dry branches from palm trees at a home in the Hol­ly­wood Hills area of Los An­ge­les on April 8.

(Right) The Bev­erly Hills lily pond with the city’s fa­mous sign is seen dur­ing a se­vere drought in Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia on April 9. On av­er­age, wealth­ier neigh­bor­hoods like Bev­erly Hills con­sume three times more wa­ter than less af­flu­ent ones, ac­cord­ing to a study by re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Los An­ge­les (UCLA), and Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown is call­ing for a re­duc­tion in wa­ter con­sump­tion by 25 per­cent statewide.

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