Is Artificial Grass The Solution For Water Preservation?

May 25, 2021

Keeping your lawn green while conserving water during a drought may seem difficult. In some areas of the United States, people are turning to artificial grasses to save water. Joining me today is Kelly Kopp, a USU Turfgrass Specialist to talk about artificial grasses.

Kailey Foster: So, is artificial turf the best way to save water on your lawn?

Kelly Kopp: Well, that is a fairly complicated question. I would say that there are a lot of misconceptions about artificial turf in the landscape. One of the main ones is that there is no water required to maintain artificial turf.

In the summer months, it can become extremely hot to the touch and play on. And it also has some other requirements for cleaning that can require irrigation as well. The idea that it's a surface that doesn't require any water is incorrect.

KF: What are some downsides of using fake grass on your lawn?

KK: One is that misconception about water requirements. Another misconception is when you replace natural grass with artificial surfaces, you lose a lot of the benefits that you get from natural grasses.

Probably one of the biggest ones is the cooling effect that grasses have. Another negative is there are some pretty high costs associated with installations.

From an environmental standpoint, there is the use of plastics, which isn't necessarily desirable; particularly, when it is time for disposal because artificial turf does not last forever.

KF: You started to talk about the cost of this grass. Can you elaborate more on the differences in the cost of artificial and natural grass?

KK: I can tell you about the research that's been done- and there hasn't been a lot. And to be clear, it's been more focused on the area of sports turf.

Research that's compared lifecycle costs of natural grasses to artificial turf grasses has shown that over their lifetime, natural grasses can be much less expensive. I mentioned previously there can be disposable costs. There are certainly costs with managing natural grass areas, for example, mowing, fertilization, management of insects and diseases.

Now, having said all that, there are some situations where artificial surfaces are appropriate.

KF: Yeah, why don't you go into some of the pros of having artificial turf.

KK: It's climate-dependent, but artificial surfaces can be useful for areas where the growing season is very short and doesn't necessarily allow natural grasses to recover from heavy sporting use. And that's where I think that artificial surfaces can play a role.