Military cemeteries struggle to keep grass green

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SAN DIEGO -- As the drought worsens in California, local military cemeteries are  finding it increasingly difficult to keep the grass green.

The Fort Rosecrans and  Miramar National cemeteries have cut water use in half since Gov. Jerry Brown set a goal of cutting consumption by 25 percent statewide.

“It's difficult. We have a mandate to maintain our national cemeteries as national shrines. Our veterans and their families have certainly earned that,” said Miramar National Cemetery Director Douglas Ledbetter.

Keeping the grass green during a drought is a difficult balance, Ledbetter said.

“Turf is the first thing people notice when they come to the cemeteries, so it’s definitely tough,” he said.

For visitor Rose Rowe, the grass adds to the experience of being at the cemetery.

“It's neat, well-kept and I appreciate the loveliness,” said Rowe, while placing flowers on her late husband’s grave site.

Between Fort Rosecrans and Miramar, cemetery officials have nearly 100 acres of grass to maintain. In addition to cutting back irrigation, they are monitoring the water pipes, nozzles and sprinklers in an effort to not waste a single drop.

While the Miramar location uses recycled water, the Fort Rosecrans location does not have the pipelines necessary to do so, and installing it would be too costly. However, the Fort Rosecrans cemetery has installed artificial turf in some areas.

An irrigation specialist is performing an audit at both cemeteries to ensure they are complying with water restrictions.

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