Lawns Gone, Good Riddance

Jaime Gonzalez of Par 3 Landscape and Maintenance removed grass at a condominium complex in Las Vegas. The lawn is considered “nonfunctional” under a new state law.

In case you have been to the city, or even just heard about how water is flaunted as a key attraction, and wondered how they can justify such use of a limited resource, then Is That an Outlaw Lawn? Las Vegas Has a New Approach to Saving Water may be worth a few minutes of your time. We recently shared news of a voluntary initiative to reconsider lawns for reasons entirely different from those in the story below. Henry Fountain‘s text accompanied by Joe Buglewicz’s photos, tells the story of Las Vegas lawns, where water resources are so limited, this seems a long time coming:

Mr. Donnarumma documented water running off a sidewalk into the curb from sprinkler overspray.

With drought and growth taking a toll on the Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of the region’s water, a new law mandates the removal of turf, patch by patch.

LAS VEGAS — It was a perfectly decent patch of lawn, several hundred square feet of grass in a condominium community on this city’s western edge. But Jaime Gonzalez, a worker with a local landscaping firm, had a job to do.

Wrangling a heavy gas-powered sod cutter, Mr. Gonzalez sliced the turf away from the soil underneath, like peeling a potato. Two co-workers followed, gathering the strips for disposal.

Mr. Gonzalez took little pleasure in destroying this patch of fescue. “But it’s better to replace it with something else,” he said. The ground would soon be covered with gravel dotted with plants like desert spoon and red yucca.

Under a state law passed last year that is the first of its kind in the nation, patches of grass like this, found along streets and at housing developments and commercial sites in and around Las Vegas, must be removed in favor of more desert-friendly landscaping.

The offense? They are “nonfunctional,” serving only an aesthetic purpose. Seldom, if ever, walked on and kept alive by sprinklers, they are wasting a resource, water, that has become increasingly precious.

Outlawing grass is perhaps the most dramatic effort yet to conserve water in the Southwest, where decades of growth and 20 years of drought made worse by a warming climate have led to dwindling supplies from the Colorado River, which serves Nevada and six other states, Native American tribes and Mexico.

For Southern Nevada, home to nearly 2.5 million people and visited by upward of 40 million tourists a year, the problem is particularly acute. The region depends on Lake Mead, the nearby reservoir behind Hoover Dam on the Colorado, for 90 percent of its drinking water…

Read the whole article here.

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