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Water authorities recognize Solera Homeowners Association for its water

Jan 03, 2024

What happens when you convert nearly 50,000 square feet of turf grass to a water-wise landscape made of decorative rock, drought-resistant plants and point-source irrigation?

You save 1.34 million gallons of water per year, more than enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools annually.

You also get an attaboy and an attagirl from Save Our Water, California's statewide water conservation program — along with support from California Water Service, the California Department of Water Resources, and local leaders like Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh.

"Water conservation must be an everyday way of life for Californians whether in wet years or dry years," Goh said at a news event held Thursday at Solera Gardens Park, near the northeast Bakersfield community's main entrance.

Solera at Kern Canyon Homeowners Association was recognized at the event for its successful transformation of several thirsty grass areas into water-wise landscapes.

The event showcased the dedication of the Solera HOA community in conserving water and highlighted the important role of water agencies like Cal Water in providing rebates and resources to residents to help incentivize water conservation.

Solera HOA Board President Karyl Ralles told those gathered that the transformation has had a positive impact on the community.

"When we took on this experiment, I didn't know how it would turn out, but it is so beautiful," Ralles said. "You might not expect an older community like ours to be at the forefront of conservation, but we believe it is important."

Robert and Ellen Bennett, who live at the 55-and-older subdivision off Highway 178 not far from the Kern River Canyon, said they were fully supportive of the HOA's decision to look for new ways to save water.

Not only that, the Bennetts are among at least 25 homeowners at Solera who have expanded water-wise landscaping to their own property.

"We did it because we heard about the rebate from Cal Water ... and we have always been conscious about water conservation," said Ellen Bennett. "It just made sense to us."

The project was funded through Cal Water's lawn-to-garden rebate program. It included the landscaping around the main entrance on Park Place Drive, as well as two back entrances to the subdivision, equaling about 49,000 square feet.

Solera has also been nominated for a 2023 City of Bakersfield Beautification Award, which will be announced June 17.

Cal Water began the partnership project with Solera HOA when its landscaper, Enhanced Landscape Management, suggested the rebate program in the fall 2022.

Donald Smith, regional manager for Enhanced Landscape Management, was at Thursday's event, where he answered questions about the plants being used in the new landscape design.

"We are using this as a low-growing ground cover. It's called pyracantha," Smith said, pointing to one of the varieties that appeared to be growing out of the rocky surface.

"It'll be in full bloom probably in the next two months," Smith said. "You'll get a red berry on it, so it'll be stunning."

Tammy Johnson, Cal Water's district manager in Bakersfield, said the partnership with the residents of Solera could be replicated across the region and the state.

"Not only has the (Solera) HOA itself been dedicated to this transformation on a community level, but we also applaud the more than 20 residents in the community who transformed their own lawns to gardens," Johnson said.

"As we anticipate our changing climate to cause the weather to eventually swing back to drier and hotter, the Solera HOA and its residents are leaders in making water conservation a way of life — and preparing for when those drier years hit."

For more information on Cal Water's programs and rebates, visit, and for water-saving tips and information, visit

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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