Science | December 4, 2022 4:43 pm

Drought in the Colorado Basin Could Shrink the West’s Lawns

It's an understandable response to the worst drought in centuries

Drought conditions could impact lawns in the western U.S.
David Mancini/Unsplash

Earlier this year, a team of researchers released an alarming report about the Colorado River basin — namely, that drought conditions had made its level the lowest it’s been in at least 1,200 years. Given the number of communities in the western United States that depend on it for their water, the implications of that discovery are vast.

Now, as Curbed reports, Colorado River Basin Municipal and Public Water Providers have announced a memorandum of understanding outlining a response to those conditions and a future in which there’s likely to continue to be less water on hand.

Among the actions the providers have committed to? “Introduce a program to reduce the quantity of non-functional turf grass by 30% through replacement with drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies that benefit our communities, wildlife, and the environment,” according to the memorandum.

Curbed’s article notes that the lawns of private homes aren’t necessarily covered by this — but it’s not hard to anticipate a near future in which more municipalities incentivize replacing grass lawns with something else. Curbed’s article points out that some drought-prone areas, including Los Angeles, have already implemented programs like this.

There are numerous alternatives to grass out there, from artificial turf to stylish gravel. You’ll get dramatically different looks with each, but you’ll be using a lot less water either way. And it’s not hard to see the appeal of that, both environmentally and pragmatically.