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Some California cemeteries turn to native plants, recycled water to cope with drought

Cemeteries with thirsty lawns are figuring out new ways to conserve water amid California's drought.

Ways to cope include replacing grass with native plants or using recycled water, two steps being taken by Savannah Memorial Park, the oldest nonsectarian cemetery in Southern California.

Groundskeepers there removed grass, put in native plants and started to cover the ground with mulch, which helps keep soil moist.

With the state in its worst water crisis in a generation, state officials have asked everyone to cut use by at least 20 percent.

The goal at Savannah is to reduce water use by 60 percent, The Los Angeles Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1t8Z21g ).

"No other cemetery in California is even attempting to do this," Beverly Morton, a Savannah board member, told the newspaper. "They usually let the grass die and the weeds take over."

Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier plans to use only recycled water for landscaping starting next year. Drought-tolerant grasses help keep the amount of watering down.

Other cemeteries are having a tougher time identifying ways to save water and still keep their grounds attractive.

One is Evergreen Cemetery, the oldest in Los Angeles. Lacking access to recycled water, its lawns have been mostly brown for several years.

Last fall, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina launched a campaign to help beautify the cemetery.

But after another winter of little rain, Evergreen faces new water restrictions.

A big challenge is getting the cemetery access to recycled water, according to Roxane Marquez, a spokeswoman for Molina. Her office has been meeting with city officials and hopes to give Evergreen — and other parts of the city's east side — access to recycled water piping.

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