The sound of sprinklers and hoses resonates throughout U.S. neighborhoods as homeowners try to resurrect their lawns with the coming of summer, but one Utah city is hoping to curb the flow of water into lawns of turfgrass.
The city of Orem is considering a proposal to lower its ordinance requiring all homes to have grass or other plants covering at least 70% of their front yards. The proposal would lower the requirement to 50%. Originally adopted to prevent yard neglect, city councilman Mark Seastrand said he hopes changing the ordinance will encourage conservation of scarce resources in the desert climate.
“I think it has been well received because there is a greater awareness in the community of saying ‘yeah water is an issue’," Seastrand said, "and water usage is going to be a greater issue as the valley continues to grow; we all need to do what we can to be conservative on that.”
The proposal aims to help lower residents’ water bills by encouraging xeriscaping, or using plants and features to lower or eliminate supplemental watering. Kelly Kopp, a professor at Utah State University who studies landscape water conservation and turfgrass management works with the university extension office to help homeowners better landscape their yards.
“Our whole mission is to work with and develop new plant materials that are lower in water use and do well in the state of Utah," Kopp said. "They can be very green and lush and beautiful, they don’t have to be spiky and grey and unattractive. That is perhaps a misconception that people have, that you can’t have a beautiful landscape if you are going to focus on saving water, you absolutely can."
According to a paper in the journal Environmental Management, Grass around homes, golf courses and parks currently use more water and land in the U.S. than corn and wheat crops combined — and are not even being consumed.
The Orem city council will vote on the proposal at its May 14 meeting.