Las Vegas May be First US City to Replace Decorative Grass

More locals want to encourage water-friendly alternatives to ornamental grass.

May 7, 2021


Las Vegas May be First US City to Replace Decorative Grass | More locals want to encourage water-friendly alternatives to ornamental grass.

Most people would agree that lush, ornamental grass adds an alluring and soothing quality to city landscapes. But in a drought-stricken city like Las Vegas, which went a record 240 days without rain in 2020, the chorus of voices calling for the replacement of non-functional turf in public spaces is getting louder. It is now a distinct possibility that this desert city, famous for its hedonistic lifestyle of shopping, fine dining, and nightlife, could become known instead for its restraint as a sustainability pioneer!

You heard it right! If a new proposal to the Nevada State Legislature to cut off the water supply to decorative lawns becomes law, Las Vegas may be the first US city to outlaw the use of ornamental grass in public spaces. This would save an estimated 15 percent of the area’s precious and dwindling water resources.

It is common knowledge that keeping green grass growing in arid land with sparse vegetation is a water-guzzling activity. Local water authorities hope that replacing this grass growing on public areas like roadsides and office parks will trim water consumption significantly: a massive 12 billion gallons of water every year, as reported by KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas in our video.

Local water use has continued to rise every year, a trend that is not sustainable. Bronson Mack of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which includes the Las Vegas Valley, estimates that there are 5,000 acres of non-functional turf spread throughout Southern Nevada. He points out that this grass is just hogging the community’s scarce water, without adding any recreational value.

This same water authority is reported to have estimated that there are almost eight square miles of non-functional turf in the metro area; grass that no one ever walks on. Ripping it out, they suggest, will save about 14 gallons per person per day, as reported by AP News.

Supporters of the ban emphasize that water-smart landscaping, aka desert landscaping, maintains the beauty of the environment using succulents, and may even create more diversity in the local plant life. Native plants are also a magnet for the ecosystems that build up around them such as birds, butterflies, and ground squirrels. The Las Vegas Sun reports on water-friendly species that offer amazing shade including desert willows and mesquite trees.

Patrick Donnelly, Nevada State Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, believes that going without decorative grass is a relatively easy way we can all adapt to what he calls “the new climate reality”.

Donnelly hopes that if Las Vegas takes the progressive step of banning ornamental turf, the city could cause a chain reaction in other thirsty cities like Phoenix or Los Angeles, saving many times more water in these drought-prone urban hubs.

Policymakers, local architects, and town planners are also urged to work closely with Nevada’s Desert Research Institute. Here, over 400 scientists tackle challenges linked to climate change, water quality and availability, air quality, the sustainability of desert lands and life in extreme environments.

In Las Vegas, residential lawns still drink up the most water. But progress is happening here too. Through its “Water Smart Landscapes Rebate Program”, the water authority rewards locals who replace their own lawns with water-friendly landscaping.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.