Valley cemetery lawns stressed by drought rules

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gov. Jerry Brown has made it clear. Golf courses, campuses and cemeteries must all do their part to meet the state's conservation goals.

Valley cemeteries face a major challenge trying to keep their lawns green this summer. State water restrictions will make it much tougher to keep that well-manicured grass looking good.

When people come to visit graves, they may notice dry spots. St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery director Carlos Rascon said, "The customers, their loved ones are buried there so they want it to look right, but it is a tricky balance to do less watering but also maintain the lawns the way they're accustomed to."

Rascon said the cemetery's recent expansion did not include any new lawn areas. A new bell tower, the exterior landscape and the main entrance featured boulders, colored rock, mulch and drought tolerant plants watered by drip irrigation. But a 25-percent drop in water use is taking its toll. Rascon explained, "You'll see dry spots in areas that are not coming in very well. The more established areas are the ones that are coping better."

Other cemeteries were also feeling the pinch. Clovis Cemetery has posted a sign outside letting visitors know its trees will get more water than the turf.

Long-term, St. Peter's hoped to tap into the city of Fresno's recycled water supply. An agreement was expected next year. Rascon said that could be a life-saver. "It would be used primarily to irrigate the lawns. It's not drinkable water but for the lawns it's perfect." St. Peter's also updated an old agriculture well with a computer controlled pump which is more efficient.
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