Does a city that went a record 240 days without rainfall in 2020 really need to water ornamental grass? More and more, Las Vegas residents are saying no. Now, it may be the first U.S. city to ban nonfunctional turf.

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Also known as grass nobody ever walks on, nonfunctional turf or ornamental grass is greenery used in places like office parks and street medians. It’s all for show, not for play or picnics. The Las Vegas metro area has nearly 8 square miles of nonfunctional turf, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The water authority has asked the Nevada legislature to ban about 40% of this remaining turf.

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Instead, these spaces could grow succulents, cacti and other drought-tolerant plants that require only one-quarter of the water that nonfunctional turf needs. The water authority estimates the city could reduce water consumption by about 15% if it nixes this useless, decorative grass.

While there have been temporary bans on watering ornamental grass — such as in California during droughts — no state or large city has tried a similar permanent ban. “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.

Ornamental grass’ days have been numbered since 2003, when the water authority said no to lawns in new subdivisions. Owners of properties that predate the ban are rewarded with up to a $3-per-square-foot rebate for tearing out old sod. But it seems like everybody who wanted to take advantage of this deal has done so by now. Meanwhile, southern Nevada’s water consumption keeps rising. Since 2019, it has increased by 9%. People are worried that the Colorado River, which supplies 90% of southern Nevada’s water, might not be able to meet demand. The river is admittedly stretched thin, having to supply Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado and Mexico as well.

Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones thinks people will be just fine without all the ornamental turf. “To be clear, we are not coming after your average homeowner’s backyard,” Jones said. But nonfunctional turf? It’s unnecessary. “The only people that ever set foot on grass that’s in the middle of a roadway system are people cutting the grass.”

Via AP News

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