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Brown is the New Green: Silicon Valley actively aims to reduce wasting water

Homes in the Silicon Valley and South Bay Area are being encouraged to reduce their water usage by cutting down on lawn maintenance. The average household uses over 18,000 gallons of water per year on their lawns alone.
Homes in the Silicon Valley and South Bay Area are being encouraged to reduce their water usage by cutting down on lawn maintenance. The average household uses over 18,000 gallons of water per year on their lawns alone.Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Santa Clara Valley Water District wants to send the message that it's all right if your lawn isn't totally green. In fact, it may be better for our state if it isn't.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District launched its “Brown is the New Green” campaign this past week in response to California's worst water shortage in 120 years. In fact, despite California's extreme drought situation, the state's overall water usage has actually increased during this time.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in January due to the water shortage and it has even gained national attention, as it imperils California's farms and essential agricultural industry. And as California heads into the dog days of summer, water usage is expected to rise.

According to the Santa Clara Water District, lawn maintenance sucks up the most water. A small household lawn usually uses up well over 18,000 gallons of water per year, and is where the Santa Clara County and many other counties have decided to focus on promoting conserving water.

In addition, the Silicon Valley along with the the Los Angeles area is taking a step further in holding water wasters accountable by bringing in conservation staff members—or as some have called them, “water cops.”

Their job is to investigate complaints in person and educate community members on how to better manage their water usage in ways that isn't so wasteful. For example, the workers might be called to respond to a house with hose water carelessly running down the street.

Although nicknamed “water cops,” their job is not to issue fines or arrests. Santa Clara County residents are to receive warnings before being hit with a fine. Water usage-related fines have already been issued in Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties.

In these dry times, the only thing that's greener than going green is going brown. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is also giving away free “Green is the New Brown” lawn signs and water collection buckets to those who wish to declare their support for the cause while supplies last.