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Removing nonfunctional turf—such as grassy medians, street edges and grassy spaces in front of businesses—can drastically improve water conservation. “All grass is not created equal. We want to see grass in parks, schools, sports fields and other places where it can be enjoyed,” said Bronson Mack of Southern Nevada Water Authority. “Putting grass underneath a sign in a business park, for instance, isn’t functional; it’s purely aesthetic.” It’s estimated that Southern Nevada can save 12 billion gallons of water per year by removing useless grass and replacing it with water-smart landscaping.
What is useless grass?
“Useless grass” describes any grassy area that cannot be used in a practical way and is only for appearances. SNWA notes that if the grass is only touched by a lawn mower, borders a street or is hard to get to, then it’s considered useless and a waste of water.
Clark County grass guidelines
In an effort to prevent new nonfunctional areas of turf, local development codes prohibit and restrict the use of grass in residential and commercial developments:
Single-family homes: No new turf is allowed in front yards. Turf in side and rear yards may not exceed 50%, or 100 square feet, whichever is greater. Turf area may not be less than 100 square feet or more than 5,000 square feet.
Multifamily homes (apartments, condos): New turf with an area greater than 100 square feet is prohibited in common areas or front yards (except for privately owned parks).
Non-residential developments: New turf is prohibited except for major schools, parks or cemeteries.
For those who have grass but are interested in replacing it with water-smart landscaping, SNWA offers rebate programs to help make the transition. Whether you do it yourself or hire a landscaper or contractor, the rebate is $3 per square foot of grass removed and replaced with desert landscaping, up to the first 10,000 square feet converted (per property, per year). After the first 10,000 square feet, the rebate is $1.50 per additional square foot. The maximum total rebate for any property is $500,000 a year.
The Water Smart Landscapes rebate program has helped the community upgrade more than 193 million square feet of grass to water-efficient, desert landscaping, and saved billions of gallons of water.
Get your HOA water smart
Local neighborhoods and homeowners associations have hundreds of acres of unused grass that are ideal to convert to drip-irrigated plants and shrubs. This is grass that homeowners do not use, as it is found in small patches along the roadways, between sidewalks and curbs, or in medians, roundabouts and other locations where it never gets used by the residents.
Homeowners play a key role in keeping their community water smart. If you have useless grass in your neighborhood, talk to your HOA about converting that water-thirsty grass to drip-irrigated trees, plants and shrubs. You’ll save water and money by doing your part in contributing to Southern Nevada’s water conservation efforts.
Need a little help? SNWA’s conservation experts can work with you and your HOA. SNWA representatives can attend HOA meetings and help your community association upgrade all its useless grass, while also receiving a hefty financial rebate in the process. Visit snwa.com to get started.
What about golf courses?
Golf courses can get a lot of flak for water consumption, but they’re more efficient irrigators than many people realize. “Golf courses have redefined the functional turf areas of the course to ensure both water efficiency and a quality golf experience,” Mack said. In Southern Nevada, golf courses are allotted an annual water budget of 6.3 acre-feet of water per irrigated acre. Surcharges and additional fines may be imposed for water use that surpasses the allotment. “Because of this, golf courses tend to make water efficiency a priority,” Mack said.