L.A.'s Newest Drought Solution: Grass Coloring

Courtesy of Credit Brown Lawn Green
A before-and-after look at a California home sprayed by Brown Lawn Green

Bill Schaffer's Brown Lawn Green serves Bay Area residents down through the San Fernando Valley, including entertainment industry-favored suburbs Calabasas and Malibu.

Bill Schaffer was vacationing in Lake Tahoe in early 2015 when he saw that the lack of snow was going to translate into big water problems for California. If people were going to want green lawns, they were going to have to be painted instead of watered, he reasoned. "I designed a custom spraying tool, bought a van and built a website," says Schaffer. One month later, Governor Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions, ordering California cities and towns to reduce water usage by 25 percent, which "really gave me a reason to extend into Los Angeles." Now that Hollywood stars have been drought shamed, celebrities like Barbara Streisand and Cher have been looking for alternatives to keep their properties looking good without water.

"We did find when we expanded into L.A. that people in Southern California just aren’t taking the drought as seriously as they are up north," observes Brown Lawn Green’s owner, Schaffer. The Solano County-based business serves Bay Area residents down through the San Fernando Valley, including entertainment industry-favored suburbs Calabasas and Malibu. 

"At first we got a little negative pushback because people thought we were using paint," said Schaffer of the green colorant, which is actually all natural, contains no chemicals and is pet-friendly. It can be used on completely brown lawns and on those that just need a touch-up. The treatment takes just one hour to dry, and, Schaffer boasts, "can make any lawn look like a golf course."

The color lasts about a month on a lawn with brown patches that is still being watered occasionally or until the grass is mowed. For a completely brown lawn that’s not being watered, the treatment will last closer to three months. As well as annual packages, Brown Lawn Green provides pricing based on square footage. To spray the 2.5 acre knoll on Tom Cruise’s 10,000-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion he just put on the market (for a cool $50 million, according to the Los Angeles Times), it would cost approximately $21,780. A small price to pay when it comes to the cost of saving California’s water resources.

"People are banking on El Nino, but now is the time to be water-conscious," says Schaffer. The average 20-foot by 50-foot yard that gets 10 minutes of watering uses approximately 620 gallons of water. To put that into perspective, that’s almost the same amount of water used during a four-hour shower or the equivalent of flushing a toilet 180 times in a row. "El Nino is not going to solve this problem. "