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Can Californians keep their lawns?

Torrential winter rains have filled California’s reservoirs, blessed the snowpack, and brought waterfalls and ancient lakes back to life.

In parts of the state, the rainfall has also revived something once thought to be a thing of the past: green lawns.

last spring, as California continued to experience worsening drought, Jeff Fox and Amy Bach let the grass in their San Francisco garden dry out. They covered their parched lawn with bark chips, added succulents and well-placed rocks, and welcomed their new drought-friendly landscaping. They were among thousands of people who gave up on the Californian dream of a single-family home surrounded by a lush, manicured lawn.

Then this winter, the Bay Area, like much of the state, was battered by massive amounts of rain. In January, the lawn “came back fuller and greener than it’s ever been,” Fox told me. “We were totally taken by surprise.”

With the rainy season now over, Fox and many other Californians are wondering what to do with their lawns. Is it wise to water them or do they have to be pulled out? For people who didn’t give up on their lawn last year, does rebirth mean they never have to?

I decided to ask experts.

Julie Saare-Edmonds, senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Water Resources, was clear in her advice: Californians should always replace their lawns with climate-resilient landscaping “as we prepare for a possible comeback. in dry conditions,” she told me.

As The New York Times reported, California’s water problems haven’t gone away for good; they just took a back seat. A warmer climate has intensified the state’s weather boost, the rapid oscillations between dry and wet periods. So the state will occasionally experience stronger winter storms, as it has this year, but also longer and more intense droughts.

“California cannot let their guard down as they prepare for a hotter, drier future driven by climate change,” Saare-Edmonds said in an email. “As a state, we must embrace water conservation as a way of life, rain or shine.”

Turfed lawns are particularly water-intensive. The majority of water in California homes is used outdoors, primarily to irrigate yards. Keeping non-native plants alive in a state that receives no rain during its hottest months is a difficult task.

Jay Lund, vice director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, said thanks to the wet winter, Fox and other homeowners like him could “have a partial lawn for free until the lawn dries out.” . But after that, he would recommend replacing the lawn with low-watering native plants.

Laura Ramos, acting director of research and education at the California Water Institute at Cal State Fresno, also said lawn owners could keep them this year, as long as they give them up again next year. . In other words: you can choose to relish this year’s reprieve, but it’s best to move on with the tough choices you may have to make.

“Water that is conserved in wet years is water that can potentially be saved for our water suppliers to use in years to come,” Ramos said in an email. “Because future rainfall is uncertain, we recommend that Californians continue their conservation efforts and make it a way of life.”

Today’s tip comes from Shelley Diamond, who lives in Los Angeles:

“Bishop is a gateway town to hiking, fishing, rock climbing and photography in the Eastern Sierra. It’s also a mall for outdoor enthusiasts – Eastside Sports is considered one of the best in the country. Great Basin Bakery will fuel you as you climb the steep Sierra escarpment that crowns this cool little town.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

We are approaching the middle of 2023. What are the best things that have happened to you so far this year? What were your victories? Or your unexpected joys, big or small?

Tell me at CAToday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name and the city where you live.

Across California, thousands of students are not only graduating from high school, but also from an educational experience that has been deeply shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic. While it’s undoubtedly been a tough time, some feel stronger and more prepared for whatever’s to come, reports The Mercury News.

“Who’s to say they made it through a global pandemic and still made it through school – and it didn’t hold them back?” Ellis Chhourn, who graduated from Oakland High School last month, told the outlet. “We were able to maneuver, find different ways to get an education and persevere. I feel like, because of all of this, it makes our year special.

Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

PS Here today’s mini crossword.

Briana Scalia and Johnna Margalotti contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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