Utne Blogs > Wild Green

Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


Grass: America’s Largest Irrigated Crop

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: lawn, grass, water, water conservation, water pricing, landscaping, gardening, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Lawn sprinkler, Palm Springs, California

Kill Your Lawn,” urges the Sacramento News & Review in a story about cutting residential water use by ripping out turf and putting in climate-appropriate plants. (This call to action sounds familiar: See “A Call for an End to Primpy Lawns.”) With in its fourth year of drought and water supplies getting unsettlingly low, SNR writer Ted Cox asks why on earth property owners should be cultivating water-intensive lawns that go largely unused. The scene he paints could be any number of American cities:

Spend a few minutes cruising the post-5 p.m. streets of just about any Sacramento residential neighborhood—by bicycle or electric vehicle, of course—and you’ll soon notice what’s really funny about the lawns: They’re mostly empty stretches of grass. There are no kids sliding and slipping down Slip ’n Slides; no neighbors chugging beers on front-porch overlooks, arguing about just how bad the Sacramento Kings suck.

When something is happening in the front yard, it almost always has to do with someone pushing a lawn mower or lugging an edge trimmer—or maybe a sprinkler system spraying water on the grass and onto the driveway.

In other words, the only thing going on in most of these large, grassy front yards is the work put into maintaining them.

Cox combines a tidy history of the lawn with some savvy reporting on the pros and cons of water conservation measures, pointing out along the way that lawn grass is American’s largest irrigated crop. David Zetland, an economist who blogs about water issues at Aguanomics, tells him that water pricing is the future:

Zetland suggests that to get people to use less water, you need to hit them where it hurts: in their wallets. … His idea is to charge customers a base amount for a reasonable amount of water, then jack up the water fees for people who want to use considerably more. People could keep their grass lawns if they wanted to, but they’d really have to pay for it.

Such “tiered” water pricing isn’t new, of course; many cities from Sarasota to San Antonio to Colorado Springs have instituted or are considering tiered water rates. Depending on where you live, they may be part of your future, too.

Source: Sacramento News & Review 

Image by Florian, licensed under Creative Commons.