The historic drought that has scorched California and forced residents to conserve water or face stiff fines has also created a business opportunity for a unique subset of entrepreneurs: lawn spray-painters.
For about $300, the New York Times reports, homeowners can transform their sun-baked brown lawns into lush, bright shades of green. According to the Times, "there are dozens of lawn paint options available, from longer-lasting formulas typically used on high-traffic turf such as ballparks and golf courses, to naturally derived products that rely on a highly concentrated pigment."
Drew McClellan, who launched a lawn-spraying business in July, told the paper he has more requests than he can handle.
“No matter how weird people might think it is, everyone is getting to the point of considering something drastic,” McClellan said.
According to LawnLift, a San Diego lawn paint manufacturer, sales of its "all-natural, non-toxic and biodegradable grass and mulch paint" have tripled this year.
In April, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order that limited the watering of "ornamental landscape or turf" to no more than two days per week. Violators are subject to fines of up to $500.
Water agencies across the state have been offering rebates to homeowners who switch to a drought-friendly landscape such as natural sage, rocks and wildflowers.
And many have been taking them up on the offer. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California told The Associated Press that the consortium received requests to remove 2.5 million square feet in residential lawns in July, up from 99,000 in January. The Municipal Water District of Orange County is taking in 20 to 30 applications a day, the AP said. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which serves Silicon Valley, received more than 1,700 requests.
According to the Long Beach, California, water department, which began its turf replacement program in 2010, residents have cut their water bills by 20 percent by ripping out their lawns. Replacing a 1,000-square-foot lawn saves about 21,000 gallons of water annually, the department said.