24 August 2021
If you’re looking for a sign of the End Times, here’s one: Las Vegas, the city where seemingly anything and everything is condoned, has made grass — the ornamental kind — illegal.
Much of the West is experiencing the worst drought in decades, a “megadrought” that has kindled early wildfires and severe water shortages. … Enter aridification, exit grass. Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada just signed into law bill AB356, which requires the removal of all “nonfunctional turf” from the Las Vegas Valley by the year 2027.— New York Times, 11 June 2021: Where the Grass is Greener Except When It’s ‘Nonfunctional Turf’
The law was prompted by a crisis in June when Lake Mead, which supplies 90% of the Las Vegas Valley’s water, fell to the critically low point that triggers federally mandated water cuts. (See photos here.) Nevada knew it was coming and was ready with an easy way to save water — they banned non-functional grass.
In Pittsburgh where it rains regularly and sometimes too much we don’t have the term “non-functional grass,” but like the rest of America we have plenty of grass that no one walks on in office parks, street medians, parking lots, and even front yards. For example, here is the ultimate in non-functional grass (not in Pittsburgh; photo from Wikimedia Commons).
… and some examples in Las Vegas. These photos were taken 7 to 13 years ago so the sites may have changed considerably.
In Las Vegas all turf has to be irrigated and 31% of it is non functional. Golf courses, parks and single-family backyards are allowed because their grass is used. The big green swatch, below, will be irrigated. Even so, the non-functional turf ban will save 10% of the water supply.
So what will fill the gaps when the grass is gone?
Many places in Las Vegas have already solved the problem with xeric (desert) landscaping or “xeriscaping.” Again, these photos are 7 to 15 years old so the sites may look different now.
In Pittsburgh we have so much water that we never think about useless grass. Sometimes we irrigate it. Sometimes the sprinklers run in the rain! Bob Donnan has tips for watering in southwestern Pennsylvania to avoid fungus in your grass or garden.
Meanwhile, for those of us who hate to cut, weed, and fertilize grass in the rainy eastern U.S. a ban on non-functional grass would a blessing in disguise.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons licenses; click on the captions to see the originals)