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Ban unused grass? Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes idea to state legislature

Could save 12 billion gallons of water per year
Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes banning unused turf
Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes banning unused turf
Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes banning unused turf
Posted at 7:59 PM, Apr 06, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Southern Nevada Water Authority is urging state lawmakers to ban all ornamental grass.

So, what would that look like? And what does it mean for your yard?

13 Action News spoke with Bronson Mack, a spokesperson with SNWA, to clear up any confusion.

"We saw residential water use in 2020 increase, probably because we were spending a little more time at home. But knowing the limited amount of water we have here in Southern Nevada, as we are seeing an increase in water use year-over-year, that’s just not a trend that we can sustain," said Mack.

Right now, Mack estimates there are about 5,000 acres of non-functional turf spread out throughout southern Nevada.

"We’re talking about grass that the community doesn’t use, that the property owner doesn’t use. The only person that is generally using that grass is walking across it when they’re pushing a lawnmower," he said.

"This is the grass that we see in our streetscapes, in our medians, lining the parking lot of a grocery store or a dentist's office. This is the kind of grass that is providing no recreational value to the community but is only drinking our water resources," he explained.

"This would not apply to single-family residential homes, typical homes that we see in southern Nevada. If you have grass in the front or grass in the back, this would not apply in those situations," said Mack.

He says the 5,000 acres of non-functional turf he's trying to ban absorb about 12 billion gallons of water every year.

"That 12,000,000,000 gallons of water is equal to about 10% of our total allocation on the Colorado River. So, it is a significant amount of water savings that we can gain without having to change our quality of life here," said Mack.

He says the solution is simple...get rid of it.

That's exactly what he and his colleagues are proposing to the Nevada state legislature, with an amendment to replace it with water-smart landscaping.

"We can maintain the beauty of our environment here. We can maintain the wonderful aesthetic that we have here, as opposed to all having patches of grass in our front yard that are very water-thirsty and drinking our water supply," said Mack.

"We are in a dangerous water crisis in the desert southwest," added Patrick Donnelly, Nevada's state director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Donnelly supports the proposal and he's hoping the idea will spread to other southwest cities.

"There’s ornamental turf in Phoenix. There’s ornamental turf in Los Angeles and San Diego. And so, can Las Vegas taking a very progressive step in banning ornamental turf cause a chain reaction that can then save many times more water all across the Colorado River basin?" wondered Donnelly.

He argues only then can we start taking control of the larger climate crisis.

"We are in a climate crisis and the climate crisis is requiring all of us to adapt our way of life toward greater sustainability in the future in order to save life on earth. So, to be honest, getting rid of some ornamental turf that you look at twice a day while you’re commuting to work is the least of the sacrifices that we’re going to have to be making in order to adapt to the new climate reality."

This amendment will be debated by the state legislature. Bronson Mack says state legislators were receptive to the idea, but no word yet on how they will vote when it comes time.

While this proposal would not ban residential grass lawns, they also absorb a little of water every year.

That's why the Southern Nevada Water Authority has the Water Smart Landscape Rebate Program, which incentivizes homeowners to remove their grass lawn and replace it with desert landscaping. If you choose to do that, the SNWA will pay you $3 dollars for every square foot of grass you replace.

If you're interested in applying, click this link to learn more.