The water crisis in California could hardly be more severe than it already is. Due to the extreme seriousness of the circumstances Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order this month mandating a 25 percent reduction in water compared with 2013 levels. He called on the state’s 411 urban water agencies to replace 50 million square feet of lawns, and cash incentives are being used in some areas to get homeowners to voluntarily give up their lawns. Some California communities are taking measures as extreme as banning front lawns from new homes altogether.
Are such turfgrass replacement and elimination programs really the answer? Might this trade-off have consequences down the road?
April is National Lawn Care Month and it presents an opportunity to address the many environmental benefits that lawns and turfgrass have to offer that are often overlooked or of which the public is unaware. Among these benefits are those that could help to mitigate the negative impacts of droughts, including turfgrass reducing stormwater runoff (thus protecting the potable water supply) and capturing and filtering precipitation so it can be reintroduced into the water supply.
Turfgrass offers additional benefits that can help to prevent or lessen the severity of future droughts, such as cooling the air, producing oxygen, reducing pollution, capturing and suppressing dust, controlling soil erosion, retaining and sequestering carbon, assisting in the decomposition of pollutants, restoring soil quality, dissipating heat, lowering allergy related problems, reducing home cooling costs, serving as a fire barrier, etc.
The problem isn’t that we have lawns, the problem is how we care for our lawns.
Can water conservation and lawns coexist? They must, if California and other regions of the country impacted by the drought want to prevent potential heat islands, serious erosion concerns, stormwater runoff problems and other consequences in the foreseeable future.
Encouraging the removal of lawns from the landscape in an effort to accomplish a quick fix will have consequences down the road. Everyone should consider the long-term consequences of such measures before things really begin to heat up.
For the full article submitted by Jim Novak, The Lawn Institute, click here.
COVER PHOTO: ISTOCK