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Cal Water teams up with Bakersfield HOA to implement water-wise landscaping

Solera Properties in Bakersfield says 20 of their residents have already swapped out their thirsty turf for native, drought-resistant landscaping.
solera xeriscaping
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-08 21:31:31-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Recent rainfall has caused problems for communities across the state, but it has also had a positive impact, replenishing our water supply and putting an end to the 3-year drought for the vast majority of California. In order to ensure a stable water supply for the future, local homeowner's association Solera Properties, is getting experimental with their landscaping efforts.

As opposed to areas of greenery, the style of landscaping known as Xeriscaping may not be what people picture when they think of a traditional yard, but it might be the smarter option. Most landscapes need water to thrive, but a Xeriscaped yard with water-wise landscaping could be the key to avoiding future stress.

Bakersfield District Manager for the California Water Service Tammy Johnson says Solera's success with Xeriscaping allowed Cal Water to give them nearly $150,000 through their Lawn-to-Garden Rebate Program.

"Not just this space, but they actually have 3 different locations and they saved - or they removed over 49,000 square feet of turf," said Johnson.

Johnson adds that the success has been so promising, Cal Water estimates this project could save about 1.3 million gallons of water per year, which is more than double what it takes to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

President of the Solera Homeowner's Association Karyl Ralles says this project has been underway for years, and that none of it would be possible without Cal Water.

"The result is absolutely outstanding, and it's unique in our community, and I'm so glad that we could serve as a showcase for the rest of Bakersfield to see what can be done," said Ralles.

According to the City of Bakersfield, the new landscaping still isn't enough to remove water use restrictions first enacted in 2021, but the city's public information officer Joe Conroy says it's a start.

"We're staying at Stage 2 for now, so I couldn't say, 'If enough of these projects get done, we would move out of the water restrictions.' It would really be up to the city council and the water board," said Conroy.

The Stage 2 water restrictions include mandating shut-off nozzles on car wash hoses, strict limitations on outdoor water use for both residences and businesses, and prohibiting the use of outdoor water for 48 hours after a rainfall.

Senior Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Water Resources Jordi Vasquez says these efforts have never been done before as part of a partnership with an HOA.

According to Vasquez, DWR has made a $6 million dollar donation to the city to help with repairing existing infrastructure and to make conservation a way of life, adding that the investment has promising long-term effects.

"By switching out thirsty lawns with these native plants and landscaping here, we've been able to save 1.3 million gallons of water per year, and cumulatively for the lifespan of this project, that'll be 13.4 million gallons of water," said Vasquez.

Vasquez says Solera Properties is an example for the rest of the state, and says DWR plans to partner with other HOAs in the future.

Ralles says she wants people to open their eyes and see what this new landscape has to offer.

"We have to do this. We live in a desert area, we want it to be sustainable. If we're proactive rather than reactive, we can continue to have a say in what happens. We can plan," said Ralles.

According to the California Water Service, there have been more than 20 residents in Solera homes who have exchanged their turf for water-wise Xeriscaping. If you'd like to see how you might implement drought-tolerant landscaping at your home, Better Homes and Gardens offers a few tips and suggestions.