Vegas wants to bans GRASS: City pushes to outlaw 'greenery that nobody walks on' and reduce water consumption in drought-prone Nevada

 Las Vegas is hoping to reduce the city's water consumption by banning ornamental grass that is not used either for the public to walk on or as part of housing developments and office parks.

Officials estimate that this 'nonfunctional turf' in the desert city requires four times as much water as drought-tolerant landscaping like cactus and other succulents.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority believes that there are almost eight square miles of this greenery in the metro area and by ripping it out the region can reduce annual water consumption by roughly 15 per cent and save about 14 gallons per person per day.   

Las Vegas might be known for excess and over-indulgence, but officials say residents of bedroom communities and sprawling suburbs embrace conservation measures, including aggressive monitoring of sprinklers and leaky irrigation systems. 

Sprinklers water grass near a street corner in the Summerlin neighborhood of northwest Las Vegas. Officials say residents of bedroom communities and sprawling suburbs embrace conservation measures, including aggressive monitoring of sprinklers

Sprinklers water grass near a street corner in the Summerlin neighborhood of northwest Las Vegas. Officials say residents of bedroom communities and sprawling suburbs embrace conservation measures, including aggressive monitoring of sprinklers

They have spent two decades trying to get people to replace thirsty greenery with desert plants, and now they're asking the Nevada Legislature to outlaw roughly 40 per cent of the turf that's left. 

'The public perception outside of Las Vegas is certainly much different - and has been for a long time - than the water conservation ethic within the community,' said Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority water resources director.

California imposed a temporary ban on watering ornamental grass during last decade's drought, but no state or major city has tried to phase out certain categories of grass permanently.

'The scale of this is pretty unprecedented in terms of a full ban on this nonfunctional turf,' said John Berggren, a water policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates.


The proposal is part of a turf war waged since at least 2003, when the water authority banned developers from planting green front yards in new subdivisions. It also offers owners of older properties the region's most generous rebate policies to tear out sod - up to $3 per square foot.

Those efforts are slowing. The agency says the number of acres converted under its rebate program fell last year to six times less than what it was in 2008. Meanwhile, water consumption in southern Nevada has increased nine per cent since 2019.

Last year was among the driest in the region's history, when Las Vegas went a record 240 days without measurable rainfall. In addition, the future flow of the Colorado River, which accounts for 90 per cent of southern Nevada's water, is in question.

The waterway supplies Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Mexico. As drought and climate change decrease what the river provides, the amount allocated to Arizona, California and Nevada is projected to be cut further.

Las Vegas might be known for excess and over-indulgence, but officials say residents are keen to enact embrace conservation measures to and reduce water consumption

Las Vegas might be known for excess and over-indulgence, but officials say residents are keen to enact embrace conservation measures to and reduce water consumption

Justin Jones, a Clark County commissioner who serves on the water authority's board, doesn't think ripping out ornamental turf will upend people's lives.

'To be clear, we are not coming after your average homeowner's backyard,' he said, before pointing out that grass in the middle of a parkway is 'dumb.'

'The only people that ever set foot on grass that's in the middle of a roadway system are people cutting the grass,' Jones added.

The agency has different regulations for yards and public parks. Based on satellite imaging, it believes banning ornamental grass will primarily affect common areas maintained by homeowner associations and commercial property owners.

Jones said the proposal has drawn resistance in some master-planned communities, but water officials say years of drought-awareness campaigns and policies like the rebates have cultivated a cultural change.

Traffic passes grassy landscape on Green Valley Parkway in suburban Henderson in Las Vegas. Officials spent have two decades trying to get people to replace greenery with desert plants, and now they're asking Nevada to outlaw roughly 40 per cent of the turf that's left

Traffic passes grassy landscape on Green Valley Parkway in suburban Henderson in Las Vegas. Officials spent have two decades trying to get people to replace greenery with desert plants, and now they're asking Nevada to outlaw roughly 40 per cent of the turf that's left 

Southern Nevada Homebuilders' Association lobbyist Matt Walker said consumer preferences have reached the point that potential homebuyers from wetter regions aren't turned off from neighborhoods that have parks but no ornamental grass.

Conservation frees water, reduces per capita consumption and strengthens builders' arguments that the desert can accommodate more growth, Walker said. 'And the benefits are the ability to keep doing what we do, which is building homes.'

'We've really gotten a comfort level that buyers are very much willing to go along with responsible development practices when it comes to water use,' he added.

Other desert cities aren't so sure. Salt Lake City has an ordinance that requires a certain amount of yard and median greenery. Phoenix, where some neighborhoods remain lush from flood irrigation, has never offered grass removal rebates.

Water officials elsewhere are loath to compare their policies to southern Nevada. Particularly in cities where water consumption per person is high, they say there's no one-size-fits-all approach for a drier future.

A bathtub ring of light minerals delineates the high water mark on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Boulder City, Nevada. This drought-stricken Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam is the primary water source for Las Vegas

A bathtub ring of light minerals delineates the high water mark on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Boulder City, Nevada. This drought-stricken Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam is the primary water source for Las Vegas

Las Vegas, for example, mostly ignores toilets, showers and dishwashers because the water authority is able to treat and recycle indoor wastewater and let it flow through a natural wash into Lake Mead - the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam. It is filtered again for reuse.

A draconian anti-grass policy might not work in downtown Phoenix, said Cynthia Campbell, water resources adviser for the nation's fifth-largest city. Trees and grass blunt public health dangers of ' urban heat islands ' - areas lacking green landscaping to offset heat through evaporative cooling.

Regional water officials understand future consumption will have to be reduced but fear the preparation and perception could backfire if the community doesn't buy in.

'There comes a point when people's demands start to harden,' Campbell said. 'They'll say: "This is the point of no return for me." For some people, it's a pool. For some people, it's grass.'

The Southern Nevada Water Authority isn't sure the idea of banning grass will spread to other cities. But Pellegrino, the water resources chief, said other places will have to make changes.

'Particularly every community that relies on Colorado River water,' he added.

Vegas wants to bans GRASS: City pushes to outlaw 'greenery that nobody walks on' and reduce water consumption in drought-prone Nevada Vegas wants to bans GRASS: City pushes to outlaw 'greenery that nobody walks on' and reduce water consumption in drought-prone Nevada Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:31 Rating: 5

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