The Southern Nevada Water Authority has just requested that Nevada law prohibit approximately 40 percent of the grass that no one walks on in the Las Vegas area. Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert. It is painfully stupid to cultivate large, useless patches of non-native grass that require a lot of water that is very scarce locally.
“To be clear, we don’t come after the average homeowner’s back yard,” Justin Jones, who serves on the board of directors of the water agency, told the Associated Press. Huh? Why not? “[But t]The only people who have ever stepped on grass in the middle of a network of roads are people who cut the grass. That’s stupid. “Okay, that’s more like that.
According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, nearly eight square kilometers of the Las Vegas subway area is covered with “non-functional lawn” – non-native grass that no one ever walks on or otherwise uses. Malfunctioning lawn carpets, numerous median streets, office parks, and housing developments in and around Las Vegas. This ornamental grass requires four times more water than the local drought-tolerant ornamental flora such as cacti and other succulents. By removing the invasive decorative grass, the Las Vegas area could cut water use by about 15 percent and save about 14 gallons of water per person per day.
Las Vegas has been a leader in water conservation by minimizing lawns since at least 2003. It offers older home owners one of the most generous discounts for tearing up their lawn: up to three dollars per square foot. However, this proposed outright ban on inoperable turf is the newest and possibly toughest turf reduction policy in the nation.
And I say hurray! This is the opening volley in the war on turf that I’ve trained all my life! Vacuum the lawn!
Do you even know why we have lawns? As I rant angrily at parties, to the chagrin of many guests who quickly stop making eye contact: We only have lawns because rich, foreign nobles born into their positions as oppressors wanted to rub their ostentatious wealth on all of our faces. In the 17th century, smaller European landowners had to use the available land to graze cattle or grow crops, but very wealthy assholes increasingly used human labor to cut and weed the grass near their homes. No sheep at the house for them! A man-made lawn of tightly clipped grass was a sign of wealth and status, and a big thank you to all dysentery farmers who couldn’t afford better sanitation systems.
So we decided that it would be a good idea to import the turf tradition to America and, in what is perhaps the most American tradition of all, forget about its terrible origins.
It’s not just the origin of the lawns and the scarcity of water that they cause that make the lawns terrible. Think of all of the gasoline that is wasted on lawnmowers and all of the human capital that is wasted on lawnmowers. I spent two summers mowing the broken lawn at my former high school, and while I valued it little more than the minimum wage I earned, I certainly could have used that time better to write something about why it was a waste of time planting invasive grass all over the place and then cutting it really short every few days. There are just better options out there. Plant some native plants to scream out loud.
While the war on lawns is finally gaining traction, it is difficult to destroy a tradition, even (perhaps especially) the dumb ones. Regardless of Las Vegas, and despite worsening droughts and increasing interstate water battles, other desert cities like Salt Lake City and Phoenix have declined to follow suit.
You don’t have to be perfect. I still have some grass myself: it’s about the size of a postage stamp, it takes me 10 minutes to cut with one of those old manual push-coil mowers, and it’s surrounded by a much larger buffet for local pollinators. So just remember to dip your toe in. Perhaps you will remove a small piece of grass first and make positive changes step by step. First of all, if you want to help contain not only a silly tradition but also a dangerous one, stop judging your neighbors when they don’t have a perfectly trimmed neon green lawn that looks like a baseball outfield. Keep fighting, brave soldiers, for the war on the lawns is finally here.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigation attorney and author of Your debt free JD (Affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a variety of publications, and made it both his business and pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are likely pure gold, yet only his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the loan anyway. He can be reached at [email protected].