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LONG BEACH
, Calif. (AP) — Rick Blankenship was tired of an insatiable lawn he couldn't keep green, no matter how he watered it, so he decided to tear it out.

Three years later, he brims with pride at his new front yard in Long Beach, California, carpeted with natural sage- and emerald green-colored ground covers and shaded by flowering magnolia and peppermint willow trees.

"It just sounded like a great way to save money and at the same time, kind of beautify my landscape," said the 51-year-old medical sales director.

As California faces an historic drought, more residents are following in Blankenship's footsteps and tearing out thirsty lawns to cut down on water use. Water agencies across the state have been encouraging the change by offering thousands of dollars in rebates to help homeowners make the switch to a drought-friendly landscape with better odds of surviving dry spells common to the local climate.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which covers 19 million people, received requests to remove 2.5 million square feet in residential lawns in July, up from 99,000 in January, said Bill McDonnell, the consortium's water efficiency manager.

The Municipal Water District of Orange County is taking in 20 to 30 applications a day, up from just five a week before Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency earlier this year. "We are just buried right now," said Joe Berg, the agency's water efficiency programs manager.

Full article at Associated Press