From Policy to Practice: Xeriscape Grant Program in Cathedral City, CA

by Aidan Acker (MLA ’11)

How does a sustainable environmental practice transition from concept to reality? In Cathedral City CA, located in the Coachella Valley, local government has identified problematic residential water resource management, and developed an initiative that promotes responsible water use through transformation of the landscape. As with many of the homes in the Palm Springs area, residents have traditionally preferred green lawns, to the extent that the appearance of lawn against desert backdrop has become a trademark of Coachella Valley homes. Cathedral City’s initiative, called the Landscapes Grant Program, provides dollar matching for lawn removal, design consult, and installation of a xeriscape landscape in the old lawn’s place. Beyond the ecological effectiveness of replacing grass with xeriscape, the significance of this initiative lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to research and understand how a sustainable best practice can, through policy, become available and affordable to a residential population. In better understanding how Cathedral City’s policy came into being, perhaps we can learn how to create better accessibility of sustainable environmental practices within a community.