Saturday, July 12, 2014

City Hall Uses Fresh Water to Keep Lawns Green

The current record-shattering drought is forcing all of us to conserve fresh water and not waste this precious resource, so we were dismayed recently when visiting City Hall and seeing the lush, verdant lawns around the building.

Curious if the water keeping the grassy areas so green was recycled water, we reached out to John Updike who is head of the General Services Administration's Real Estate Division for details. He emailed us this note:

Thanks for your note on this important subject.

Working in conjunction with DPW, we’re using non-potable water for sidewalk cleaning, and we use non-potable sources for watering the landscaping around 525 Golden Gate [the SF Public Utilities Commission building].

With regard to the lawns on the Civic Center Plaza and at City Hall, we’re investigating how to bring a non-potable source to those areas as well. That study is underway.

In the meantime, while we’re using fresh water sources, we are reducing the amount & frequency of water used on the lawns, and between that effort and a significant replacement of older water fixtures at both City Hall and at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, have effected water use reductions over the past year.
(Yours truly on the City Hall grass.)

We applaud the use of non-potable water in two instances, but are disappointed any fresh water is utilized for keeping these lawns looking so healthy. We'd like Mayor Ed Lee to direct the GSA to immediately stop using fresh water for City Hall's lawns until the city's study is completed and a non-potable stream of water is made available.

In the short term, better to have the lawns a golden brown and send a clear visual conservation message to the general public, then maintain such robust greenery at City Hall. Further down the road, City Hall leaders who pass the lawns every day should develop a new landscaping design for the grounds and create a garden with plants that don't require much valuable water - fresh or recycled.

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