AmeriCorps team (2) Guest blog by Jessie Rudd, CivicSpark AmeriCorps member. Jessie, along with her team of AmeriCorps members are partnering with California Urban Forests Council in assisting local government agencies and disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley improve and/or implement urban forestry programs in their communities!

On Wednesday, April 1 Governor Jerry Brown issued the first statewide mandatory water restrictions to impose a 25 percent reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies. A statewide campaign to limit outdoor watering could threaten the vitality of the existing urban and community forests while greatly restricting future plantings. While the State must respond to drought conditions in California, new funding from the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act will funnel $17.4 dollars into urban forestry projects this year.

blog drought picThese grants target regions most affected by environmental pollution and poor economic health. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the State’s largest water consumers, but is also environmentally and economically disadvantaged – it is a region that could benefit greatly from an increase in trees and the use of best management urban forestry practices. Planning and planting amidst a drought is on every tree huggers mind, but drought myopia and hysteria cannot create a canopy that maximizes the benefits provided by trees.

The efficacy of the State’s campaign to limit water use while spurring the growth of urban and community forests is contingent on language and should target turfgrass while still condoning long-term  investments in green space including trees! The nonprofit TreePeople in Los Angeles are fellow appreciators of a curvaceous deciduous and evergreen inventory and they’re telling an important story – trees not turf. In Los Angeles where water is scarce and properties sometimes vast, TreePeople found that the amount of water necessary to keep just an average-sized turfed yard (3,000 square feet) alive for 5 years is 265,000 gallons – woah! TreePeople also report that the amount of water needed to care for 1 tree for 5 years is 1,055 gallons – to really highlight their point, TreePeople did some math for us and found that each average-sized turfed yard could be growing 251 trees with the same amount of water! http://blog.treepeople.org/home/2014/07/fighting-drought-lawn-time-ladwps-cash-lawn-program#.VSMGsL7tvFI

The State is parched and California must be a better steward of our water resources but some people worry that the State’s reductionist billboard campaign will pit trees against water and this is fallible. Not all outdoor watering is created equal.