Orange County Aquatic District brings native California landscapes to Laguna Niguel yards, saving water with rebate program

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) — The Moulton Niguel Water District is teaching people how to protect their lawns from drought and allowing homeowners to relax in a serene, eco-friendly space while saving money.

It’s a new look that Laguna Niguel’s Dennis Ghan and his wife enjoy daily.

“Just coming and going, and seeing it here all the time,” Ghan said. “We get a lot of compliments from people who come to us.”

Three years ago, it was just a lawn and a hedge. This was at the start of the Moulton Niguel Water District NatureScape programme.

The Ghans and their neighbors are among 100 participants who have transformed their lawns into native California landscapes, saving water, time and money.

The package includes a discount for turf removal and half the cost of design.

RELATED | California water officials urge conservation amid bleak prospects for improving drought conditions

“Before, it was the lawn that needed watering several times a week, and now we only water it once every three weeks,” Ghan said.

Water District Chairman Brian Probolsky said with their customers using 40% of the water outdoors, it was the perfect place to cut back.

The coastal fire that burned at Laguna Niguel in mid-May is a prime example of the growing need to conserve water.

Probolsky says the district plans fire protection ahead of time, but it helps when everyone works together toward a common goal, as climate change transforms fire season year-round.

“Everyone can do their part. If you see a fire in your neighborhood, in your area, start by shutting off your own water, saving that pressure on firefighters,” Probolsky said.

Creating this serene, eco-friendly space also helps the community. The district has a tariff structure based on the water budget.

RELATED | Los Angeles watering restrictions approved by City Council

Water District General Manager Joone Kim Lopez said those who use less than their budget help saved dollars stay here through discounts and partnerships like those offered by the NatureScape program.

“We’re putting that money back into our community to be resilient and reliable, because we know that with climate change, droughts are getting longer,” Kim Lopez said. “It’s happening more frequently and we really need to have a sustainable approach to make sure we’re effective.”

Probolsky says it’s not just about reducing water consumption.

“We are restoring nature to how it was,” Probolsky said. “It’s not just about plants and saving water, we bring animals home.”

Before owners get too into the program, they must attend a free two-hour workshop to make sure they really want to commit through the process.

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

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