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Drought water restrictions: Why is grass so bad for the West’s water crisis

Drought water restrictions: Why is grass so bad for the West’s water crisis

Los Angeles County residents and businesses were informed this week that outdoor water usage would be limited to one day per semaine starting June 1. This is the first time such a strict rule has been implemented by water officials.

“This is a crisis. This is unprecedented,” Adel Hagekhalil (general manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California) said. “We have never done something like this before, and because this is the first time we’ve ever seen it happen like that.”

The Great American Lawn has been a status symbol for many years and is often portrayed as a place to relax and enjoy comfort. They require a lot of water to keep them thriving, and this water is quickly running out.

Grass was the largest irrigated crop in America, surpassing wheat and corn. Study frequently citedNASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It noted that the area covered by turf grass in the early 2000s — mainly in front yards — was approximately 63,000 miles. This is larger than the state Georgia.

According to that study, it takes 75% of a household’s water to keep the front lawn grass green. This luxury is not available in California due to climate change-driven droughts that have reduced reservoirs to historic lows.

According to John Fleck, director of Water Resources Program at University of New Mexico, conventional grass lawns won’t work in Southern California, home to many celebrity homes and lush green yards.

Fleck stated that you want your children to have some space in your yard. A little bit of grass is okay. It’s the large expanses of lawn that aren’t being used, other than ‘because they look pretty’ — it has to go. This is what we don’t have anymore.

He said, “We just cannot afford the water for that.”

Water hogs

Burton Agnes Hall in Worcestershire, circa 1880. The obsession with a well-manicured lawn began in England and was adopted in the US -- even in places where grass isn't meant to thrive.
America’s Obsession with grass Fleck explained that this can be traced back 17th century England. It is here that meticulously maintained lawns became a symbol of wealth and status due to their high maintenance costs.

Fleck stated that the idea of lawns being a sign of status became ingrained in gardening culture in this country during British colonialism. So it kind of traveled west with us, and all that labor was taken in.”

Fleck stated that grass lawns thrived in the US on the East Coast because it was raining all the time and didn’t require supplemental irrigation water. As Americans moved west, they brought with them the “landscape they were comfortable and familiar with.”

Fleck said, “The problem is we have brought grasses into this climate in Southwest that come from wetter regions.” “The Kentucky Bluegrass is the classic example.”

Kentucky bluegrass, which is a native of Europe and Asia, but can thrive in parts of the Eastern US requires more water than the West can provide.

Homes and a golf course in the Summerlin community of Las Vegas. Last year, Nevada passed a bill to ban ornamental grass, mandating the removal of all "nonfunctional turf" from the Las Vegas Valley by 2027.

In the desert Southwest, water doesn’t last very long. The heat and dry air evaporate water quickly, which increases the amount of water needed to saturate a lawn. This effect is magnified on hot summer days, when warmer air can absorb more water — which is also when it has been most difficult to find enough water.

California has many subclimates. These range from hot and dry to wet and cool. California is a state where water is important to maintain a grass lawn.

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According to the California Department of Water Resources (California Department of Water Resources), a 1,500-square-foot lawn on Crescent City’s northern coast could require 22,000 gallons of irrigation per year.

Further south, however, the requirements are much higher. Los Angeles would require 43,000 gallons per year for a lawn of the same size. It jumps to 63,000 gallons an year an hour east in Palm Springs.

Consider the fact that California’s average lawn size is 5500 square feet. HomeAdvisorYou can see how lawn care in the West could become a significant part of a household’s water budget.

According to the Department of Water Resources, half of California’s urban residential water consumption is used for landscaping. This is due to California’s low humidity and scorching heat. According to the agency, the average Californian consumes 51 gallons of indoor water per day, or 19,000 Gallons per year.

Lawn mowers, weed-whackers, fertilizer

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Grass has a hard time accessing and absorbing water when it's fertilized.

Gas-powered lawnmowers emit harmful pollutants that can cause cancer, and planet-warming gasses. This, in turn, contributes to the climate crisis as well as the region’s drought.

Incredible before and after photos show just how much this critical reservoir has dried up
According to the Environmental Protection Agency gas-powered lawn mowers and gardening equipment are not allowed. Released In 2018, more than 22,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide were emitted. The agency estimates that each year, there are more than 22 million tons of carbon emissions. over 17 million gallonsJust to refuel the equipment, gasoline is wasted.

It also has a harder job accessing and absorption water when fertilized. This means that it needs to be watered more frequently. Fertilizers boost the plant’s density, both above-ground or below. The roots can become compacted which can eventually decrease the soil’s ability for water retention.

Scientists have linked the Use fertilizers to promote growthEvapotranspiration refers to the process where water moves from the ground into the air. In the West, the lack of precipitation and an increase in evaporative demand — also known as the “thirst of the atmosphere” — are the two major drivers of the region’s water crisis. Warmer temperatures increase water absorption by the atmosphere, which then dry out the landscape.

What you can achieve different

Grass-less yards in Boulder City, Nevada.

Fleck, who lives in an Albuquerque suburban home without a lawn, said that if he had a grass lawn it would likely need the same amount water as a “thrifty” indoor water user.

He said that trees are the best option for outdoor landscaping, and not lawns. Trees provide a cooling effect on urban heat islands, save air conditioning energy, and help clean the air in areas that have poor air quality, such as Southern California.

Some cities offer buyouts to homeowners who want to replace their grass with something else. Native plants or xeriscaping.
One of the most important water conservation programs in San Diego Homeowners are paidIt will remove lawns full of Kentucky bluegrass or other turf grasses at $4 per square feet and replace them by drought-tolerant desert plants. The city claims that it has successfully replaced 42,000,000 square feet of turf grass since launching the program.
A home in the historic Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs, with a combination of grass and xeriscaping in the front yard.
Last year, Nevada A bill was passed To ban ornamental turf and to require the removal all “nonfunctional turf” from the Las Vegas Valley area by 2027. The Colorado River, which supplies water to large portions of Nevada, has been declining at an alarming rate. The latest conservation effort of the state would save around 10% of the annual allotment water from the Colorado River Basin.

Fleck stated that native landscaping is logical and can be very beautiful. Tucson is my favorite Western city. It has adopted native landscaping and it’s beautiful. It also uses a lot more water.

Fleck said that he believes “the brown lawn will be a badge-of-honor” soon.

He said, “It is like — I am making a contribution to the well being of our community in these times of crisis by ignoring my lawn.” “And that will be the status symbol.”

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