Los Angeles just launched a new program that is aimed at reducing water use. Their innovative approach gives a $1 rebate for every square foot of turf to people who replace their lawns with drought tolerant groundcovers or native plants that require a maximum of 15” of water per square foot per year. The program has already been implemented in Las Vegas where officials estimate they will save 7 billion gallons of water per year. I love this plan. There’s nothing more boring than a lawn, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have to care for one, you know how annoying it is to mow it. They also dirty up our water system with all the herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers people use to keep them pretty. And, according to the US EPA, gas mowers represent 5% of US air pollution and use 800 million gallons of gas per year. And, if you’ve ever been to the LA area, you know that’s not a place where lawns are supposed to grow. It’s hot and dry; all you should really see is chaparral and other drought-tolerant plants. From Sustainablegardeningblog.com:
With very few exceptions, California’s residential and commercial lawns are all “exotics”, coming from outside of North America. These turfs include Tall Fescue (Europe), Blue Grass (Europe), Bermuda Grass (Africa), Zoysia (Philippines), Seashore Paspalum (tropical Americas), and St. Augustine (West Indies, West Africa). All of these grasses come from areas with much higher rainfall than California. Of these, tall fescue is our most common landscape turfgrass state-wide, and this grass type is also one of the most water-requiring, using upwards of 40” to 50” of water per square foot per year.
But should we all just get rid of our lawns? Maybe not. Lawns still provide an essential filtration service, cleaning rain water before it empties into reservoirs and groundwater sources. They also mitigate that hot summer heat generated by city streets and buildings. And there are still those suburbs that need their white picket fences and impeccably cut lawns. Certainly, some regions can easily grow grass without using enormous amounts of water and chemicals. Sustainablegardeningblog.com recommends using water-friendly turf, such as a native Carex or buffalograss. Researchers at UC Davis and Riverside have developed a type of buffalograss called ‘UC Verde’ that has been shown to get by on just 12” of water per year, resulting in 75% water savings over regular lawns. Check out the section on Lawn Reduction and Lawn Substitutes and The Great American Delawning Movement from Sustainable-gardening.com to read about how to create a lawn-free yard. Or if you have to keep your lawn, use a sustainable lawn maintenance company like Clean Air Lawn Care.