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Green grass in drought-stricken B.C. might have been painted

What's the secret of a lush-looking lawn in Metro Vancouver, where watering is banned amid a brutal drought?

It might not be surreptitious sprinkling. Instead, it might be paint.

Tyler Basham, owner of Tinted Turf Grass Solutions, was giving a residential lawn in Maple Ridge an instant makeover on a recent morning, spray-painting the brown expanse and turning it a luxuriant green.

"I know it might sound a little silly at first, but then when you started looking at it and that kind of transformation from the start to finish, it's one of those phenomenal things," said Basham, wielding a spray wand and wearing a white plastic backpack filled with green paint.

Lawn watering was prohibited in Metro Vancouver's 23 local authority regions on Aug. 4, with the ban in place until Oct.15. Some homeowners are looking for alternatives including spray-painting or artificial turf, but others are embracing the golden look.

British Columbia is experiencing what the province calls a severe and unprecedented drought, with 29 of its 34 water basins at drought level 4 or 5, with level 5 being the worst level.

From May to July, just 54.6 millimetres of rain fell at Vancouver's airport, compared to the average 154.4 millimetres. August has been similarly dry so far.

The City of Port Coquitlam has launched a "golden lawn" contest, with residents being asked to submit photos of their "dormant" lawns to compete for $100 gift cards, all in the name of celebrating water conservation.

Chilliwack is staging a similar competition but isn't trying to gild the issue -- it says it wants to find the community's "ugliest lawn."

Port Coquitlam resident Kristi Hayward submitted a photo to her community's contest, showing her neighbour's dog on her parched and tufty lawn.

"It's just a way to make a fun thing out of something that was not fun," she said.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said he's sticking with his golden lawn, which he hasn't watered since Canada Day. He said the contest had been flooded with photo submissions.

Jackson Thornley, an owner of Turf Team Landscaping, said he's seen increased demand for his company's artificial grass in recent weeks.

"I think even last year, there was a little bit of a watering restriction towards the end of August, but this year has been a lot more, I would say, maybe a 20 per cent increase in demand for artificial grass now," said Thornley, adding that the company's waiting list was growing.

Thornley said installing artificial grass would typically save more than 50,000 litres of water per year for an average-size Vancouver yard.

Basham launched his lawn-painting business in June, and said business has picked up quickly. It costs about $200 to $250 to paint a typical residential lawn.

The watering restrictions are prompting many homeowners to seek alternatives, he said.

"People like to have green grass … and people care about their properties. We live in a really nice part of the world, and people like to make their yards look nice," he said.

The process of lawn painting, long popular in California, is similar to hair dyeing, said Basham. He said he consults with homeowners to choose the appropriate shade of green.

He said the paint is long-lasting, at least until the grass grows out again and the painted tips are mowed.

"It's a permanent paint, one rain is not gonna hurt (it)," said Basham.

It's also biodegradable and environmentally friendly, he said. "I have two young kids. One is two, one is three months and I have our grass painted. I've got a dog as well," said Basham. "I wanted to make sure (and) I wouldn't put it in my yard if I didn't believe the product."

Basham said lawn painting is popular among real estate agents staging properties for sale.

Real estate agent Justine Williams, one of Basham's clients, said agents want properties to be "perfect-looking and show-ready."

Williams said she had her own lawn painted before recommending it to clients.

"I had it done probably about a month ago and it still looks the same as it did the day I got it painted," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2023.  

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