Cupertino Cancels Fireworks Because of Drought, Synthetic Grass Too Water-Intensive For Show Prep

The city could be the first in California to cancel fireworks because of drought

The city of Cupertino won't be having a fireworks show on July 4 because of California's drought, and in an odd twist, the reason is because the Silicon Valley suburb was trying to be extra conscious of saving water.

“People are very disappointed,” said city spokesman Rick Kitson. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? But overall, I think they get it.”

And though no agency formally tracks fireworks cancellations related to drought, Cupertino – home to Apple Inc. headquarters – could be the first city in California to squash such a pyrotechnics display as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

Until this year, Cupertino was one of the rare spots in the Bay Area to still host city-funded firework shows while other cities, such as Livermore, Hercules, Oakland and San Leandro, cut such events during the recession. Kitson said the last time the city cancelled a show was about a decade ago, and that was for monetary reasons.

The reason the community show was shuttered this year is because of water conservation efforts.

Cupertino High School switched to artificial turf a while back, in part, Kitson said, to save money on watering the lawns.

And it’s those synthetic fields, where thousands of people congregate, that need 100,000 gallons of water to douse both before and after the fireworks display, according to the Fremont Unified School District.

The water is needed to prevent any fireworks fallout on synthetic grass that would yield a mass of burning plastic, Kitson pointed out. He added that if the fields were still full of real grass, the fireworks show could probably still have been held. A little bit of sparks and ash falling on real grass, he said, “isn’t that big of a deal,” and wouldn't require the same amount of water preparation that fake grass does.

“Because we’ve done the right thing, the total use of water becomes more conspicuous,” Kitson said. “You’ve got to hose down the plastic before and a lot afterward.”

Cupertino is doing several things to counter the drought – not just saying no to fireworks. The city has turned off two fountains and is letting the grass turn brown on public land.

Lisa Lien-Mager, spokeswoman for the Association of California Water Agencies, said her agency is not tracking whether cities cancel fireworks shows because of the drought. But she did say that in past droughts, some communities have disbanded such events.

In 2012, three Chicago suburbs cancelled fireworks shows because of a persistent drought in the Midwest.

While the cherry bombs and Chinese Crackers won’t be popping off to celebrate America’s birthday, Kitson said the city of about 60,000 is going to play up other July 4 extravaganzas so that Cupertino’s residents won’t be gypped.

The city, he said, will give extra care to the morning parade, the community swim and the pancake breakfast.

“We’re going to make those activities a lot bigger,” Kitson said. “There will still be a lot to do."

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