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City tinkers with artificial turf to save water

• Median lawns made of synthetics.

Posted: May 1, 2008 1:17 a.m.
Updated: July 2, 2008 5:03 a.m.
In their latest effort to go green, Santa Clarita city officials are tinkering with the city's turf to slim down on the city's water use.

Take a second glance at the impeccably-manicured grass on the street median in the middle of Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia and you'll see a pilot project that could mean converting all of the city's street median mini-lawns to synthetic turf.

The city rolled out about 2,000 square-feet of synthetic turf onto a stretch of median between Bouquet Canyon Road and Valencia Boulevard in February to see just how much irrigation water and landscaping costs the city could save on an annual basis.

"The majority of folks that drive by probably don't notice it's not real turf," said Kevin Tonoian, the project manager.

The landscaped median is using 78 percent less water with the new turf, which will translate to saving about 75,000 gallons of water per year, he said.

"We spend 52 cents a year per square foot to maintain a landscaped median and while that doesn't sound like a whole lot, when you add up the hundreds of acres of turf on medians in the city, that number gets big pretty quickly."

The city paid American Landscape $10 per square foot - a total of $20,000 - to purchase and install the artificial turf on the Magic Mountain Parkway median. An additional $70,000 was spent on pulling out the old grass, grading, restructuring the concrete and irrigation system and controlling street traffic during the renovation.

Once installed, the turf requires little, if any, maintenance, he said.

Tonoian said the city has tried to make newer landscape projects "less turf intense," which means less grass and more drought-tolerant plants.

"In addition to saving cost on water, we will be significantly reducing the amount of regular staff maintenance," he said. "We wouldn't have to have staff or contractors out there mowing that particular stretch."

Reducing lawnmower emissions will also help the environment, he said.

He said city staff will be closely evaluating its performance over the next year.

"We don't have a great deal of experience with synthetic turf," he said. Although the turf comes with a warranty, he said, "We'll be looking at whether it is going to fade or have issues where it loses its luster. It's not something that's going to generate a lot of foot traffic."


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