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La Cañada's greener green thumbs

Proponents of native plant gardens say water isn't ours to waste.

March 30, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe-piasecki@latimes.com
  • Lisa Novick stands at the upper-most point in her backyard in La Canada Flintridge on Monday, March 28, 2011. Novick, and her husband Nick Warner, have landscaped their backyard almost entirely with California native plants which require very little water in the summer, and most of their water needs are collected in rain barrels in the winter. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Lisa Novick stands at the upper-most point in her backyard…

Home to almost exclusively water-saving native plants, Lisa Novick’s La Cañada Flintridge backyard is alive with the sound of birds and is a kaleidoscope of color.

In a city known for expansive and obsessively uniform golf-course green lawns, it’s also an anomaly. You might even call it a protest.

Novick, who has installed a rainwater catchment system to reduce her reliance on imported water, believes Foothills residents — who collectively use 1 billion gallons of water or more each year for irrigation purposes alone — would benefit from growing stronger ties to the natural world.

“In my yard, the whole attitude is if I’m going to use water, it should be feeding the ecosystem — the native plants and animals we have left in La Cañada. It’s unethical to drain the Sacramento Delta and use all the energy it takes to bring that water here just to grow ornamentals,” said Novick, an outreach and education coordinator for the Theodore Payne Foundation, which on April 10 will feature her Uintah Street yard as part of its annual Native Plant Garden Tour.

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Saving money is always a plus, too.

Since converting her back lawn into a native plant showcase sustained largely by rain barrels, Novick, a Valley Water Company customer, has reduced her four-person household’s average water consumption from more than 17,000 gallons per month to less than12,000 gallons.

That reduction has spared Novick the brunt of increasing costs of imported water, which according to Novick’s billing records have increased the price of water

The Valley Water Company imports as much as 75% of its water, and 60% to 80% of all water consumed by Valley Water users goes toward irrigation, according to General Manager Bob Fan.

Novick’s rain barrels, fed by runoff from the house’s roof, cost about $1,700 to install and can hold a combined 1,540 gallons at any given time.

Despite the staggering amount of water dedicated to local lawn care, area residents have made great strides toward conservation.

In 2007, Foothills residents consumed more than 12,000 acre feet (one acre foot is just over 325,000 gallons) of imported water. Last year, water imports for the area dropped to just under 9,200 acre feet (close to three billion gallons), according to Foothill Municipal Water District General Manager Nina Jazmadarian.

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