Metropolitan Begins Transforming Region's Public Spaces into Water-Efficient Heritage Landscapes

May 22, 2003
Eleven Cities from Camarillo to La Mesa Receive Funds Totaling $500,000 in Effort to Make Southern California Look Like Southern California Again

Marking the first step in reclaiming the region's natural landscape heritage, 11 cities in six counties will remake city parks and public outdoor spaces courtesy of Metropolitan Water District's City Makeover program, launched as part of a $2.4 million effort to promote outdoor water conservation region-wide.

Actress and native plant enthusiast Rene Russo and Phillip J. Pace, chairman of Metropolitan's board of directors, announced the recipients at a press conference at MWD's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles today.

"We lost our landscape heritage so long ago, we wouldn't know a native plant if we tripped over one. This program goes a long way toward helping us rediscover our sense of place," Russo said before tearing open jumbo envelopes containing the names of the $75,000 recipients.

The cities of Azusa, Oceanside, Rancho Cucamonga, San Clemente and San Jacinto each will receive $75,000. The cities of Corona, La Mesa, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Monica, as well as the Chino Basin Water Conservation District in the city of Montclair and Camrosa Water District in Camarillo each will receive $20,000.

"Today is the start of a long-term plan created by Metropolitan and the Center for Water Education to help all 300 of the cities in our six-county service area rediscover the natural beauty of Southern California," Pace said.

"Restoring our city streets, our parks and even our own lawns with the plants that belong here is the best way to foster long-term and sustainable water conservation. With native plants -- and I don't mean cactus -- we can help ensure a reliable water supply for years to come without sacrificing beauty," Pace continued.

Demonstrating Metropolitan's commitment to the region's landscape heritage, Pace joined Russo in ceremoniously planting California-native Coral Bells -- or Heuchera -- in the courtyard at the district's headquarters building near Union Station. Metropolitan plans to replant sections of the courtyard with California native and drought-tolerant plants to complement existing natives around the building.

In total, 43 make-over projects were submitted, with 17 located in Los Angeles County, nine in Orange County, nine in San Diego County, five in Riverside County, two in San Bernardino County and one in Ventura County.

"We were thrilled when nearly triple the number of cities and agencies applied than we expected," said Ronald R. Gastelum, Metropolitan's president and chief executive officer. "Originally our plan was to give out six $75,000 grants, but we diverted some money from our Community Partnering Program when we saw the strength of the submittals."

Metropolitan's board authorized the creation of the City Makeover Program last November as part of a larger outreach effort to foster appreciation of California native and drought-tolerant plants as well as efficient irrigation.

Applications were judged by a panel of experts including representatives from water agencies, public works directors, historians and landscape architects who rated each project on its environmental, educational and social value for the community. Proposals were evaluated on criteria including site selection, use of appropriate plant palette, sustainable landscape design, efficient irrigation techniques, available matching funds and inclusion of a public awareness and education component.

Metropolitan's multi-faceted campaign to encourage outdoor water conservation and promote the use of native and drought-tolerant plants in gardens was launched last July, with the help of Russo. The district's campaign shifts the focus of water conservation from inside the home to outside, where 30 to 70 percent of residential water is used.

As part of its conservation initiative, Metropolitan also has unveiled a new Internet-accessible watering calculator and watering index on the district's Web site, "" The calculator helps residents save water and money by customizing an outdoor irrigation sprinkler schedule based on soil conditions, plants and the weather, while the index will provide regular updates on sprinkler settings.

To view the City Makeover recipients, visit Metropolitan's web site.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.

Source: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California