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B.C. cities dealing with drought invite residents to show off their brown lawn — for a prize

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Amidst new water restrictions, several Lower Mainland municipalities are encouraging residents to flaunt their dehydrated lawns with pride.

Municipalities including Port Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack are asking residents to submit photos of their well-maintained, albeit brown lawns to win a prize.

“We’re having a little bit of fun with it,” said Dave Kidd, manager of public works for the City of Port Coquitlam. 

Metro Vancouver entered Stage 2 water restrictions last week amid drought conditions, meaning residents are banned from lawn watering.

Fines for violating water restrictions can reach up to $500, depending on the municipality. 

Kidd says the contest is the city’s creative way of raising awareness on the restrictions and helping residents accept a new reality. 

Two people are seen out of focus on a brown, grassy field in front of a beach.
Brown grass is pictured in Vancouver’s English Bay in July 2023. Municipalities are asking residents to submit photos of their brown lawns for a prize, as a way to raise awareness on water restrictions, says Dave Kidd with the City of Port Coquitlam. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

The city normally sees a 50 per cent increase in water consumption around this time of year, mostly due to lawn watering, according to Kidd. 

“It’s a bit of a shift to embrace the golden-brown lawn,” he said. 

Prizes for the contest include three $100 gift cards to a local business or a $150 gift card for a block party in your neighborhood. 

Residents can submit their photos online or post them to social media and tag the City of Port Coquitlam. 

Abbotsford, Mission, and Chilliwack are holding a similar contest, offering winners between $50 and $150 off their water utility bill, or the same amounts in gift cards.

Karin England, landscape architect with Metro Vancouver regional parks, says keeping lawns green in the summer can be more wasteful than people think.

“I don’t know if everyone realizes that the water we use to water our lawns is our drinking water,” England said on CBC’s B.C. Today

A woman in a black t-shirt, jeans and a hat is pictured watering her white sedan, among several cars lining a sidewalk.
A woman washes her car with a hose on a street in Vancouver, on Aug. 11. Landscape architect Karin England says keeping lawns green in the summer can be more wasteful than people think. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

While lawns can be useful, for example by providing recreational space, England says people should assess whether they are actually using their lawn. 

“Lawns are not a natural system, they’re a human-invented thing,” said England.

“It’s not as if we’re giving up something that we absolutely need to have in our lives.”

England suggests those who like having a green lawn consider switching to alternatives — like a clover lawn — that require less water than grass.

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