SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., April 15, 2015—Today, the United States is experiencing severe weather events including super storms, tornados, floods and droughts. And, while these events will become more severe and frequent as the climate continues to warm, fresh water has become an endangered resource in many states.
The Surfrider Foundation (surfrider.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, believes it’s important to build climate resilient infrastructures and provide sustainable measures to protect and manage the nation’s freshwater resources and safeguard its oceans.
“Numerous local and state governments are passing stricter mandates, and offering incentives, to conserve water and prevent polluted runoff,” says Paul Herzog, Coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program. “Residents and business owners have a serious role to play, from the way they use water indoors to how they landscape.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, up to 70 percent of residential water use happens outdoors for watering lawns and gardens. Turf grass is one of the most water-intensive plants in a landscape. Even worse, people tend to overwater their lawns and gardens by more than double the amount of water needed by the plants. This excess water, including that from broken sprinklers and rainwater, runs off the property and into the street, picking up pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, automobile oil, brake pad dust and exhaust, before going untreated into storm drains that lead to the ocean.
Since urban runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution, in 2009 the Surfrider Foundation launched its Ocean Friendly Gardens program. The program provides hands-on solutions, do-it-yourself workshops and community events for people who want to learn how to turn their water-wasting, ocean-polluting lawns and gardens into beautiful, economical, low-maintenance and high-impact landscapes.
“Not only does an Ocean Friendly Garden reduce water usage on a property by 80 percent, it provides lasting benefits for the surrounding community and decreases the amount of runoff entering our waterways and oceans,” adds Herzog.
This spring, Surfrider encourages the public to help conserve water and protect their communities and oceans by applying CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention – to their landscapes:
• Conservation. Remove your turf. Replace it with an Ocean Friendly Garden of native plants to conserve water, eliminate chemicals and help restore your yard’s natural habitat, bringing back the birds, bees and butterflies. Native plants with deep roots absorb and store the most water.
• Permeability. Build healthy and biologically rich soil by adding organic compost to it. This will allow it to act like a sponge, soaking up water and filtering pollutants. Then apply 3-4 inches of mulch on top. Mulch holds in moisture, suppresses weeds and is food for the soil organisms (that feed your plants). Soil and plants also help to reduce climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
• Retention. Direct your rain gutters and downspouts into your dry stream-beds and basins to slow, spread and sink rainwater. A rain barrel can also help slow the rainwater, while you can use a hose to direct the overflow into your landscape or garden.
Surfrider’s chapter network works with residents, businesses, landscape professionals, and local and state governments. Since the program’s inception, 150 Ocean Friendly Gardens have been installed and more than 3,000 people attended Ocean Friendly Garden-based activities in their communities. To learn more, get involved and be part of the solution, visit surfrider.org/ofg.
Be sure to check out Paul Herzog Ocean Friendly Gardens Earth Month blog series.