Opinion: Say Goodbye to Grass That’s Only There for Looks. California Can’t Afford to Waste Water

California was so dry and its water supply so precarious by May 2022 that the State Water Resources Control Board issued an emergency order: No drinkable water could be used to irrigate grass that had no function other than to look nice.

The regulation does not apply to residential lawns, although they were already turning brown due to local restrictions on sprinkler use.

It does apply to all purely ornamental lawns — “nonfunctional turf,” in regulatory parlance — at commercial, industrial and institutional sites, such as shopping centers and corporate headquarters.

That order was recently extended for another year.

It’s time for California to follow Nevada’s lead and permanently remove decorative turf.

To be clear, we’re talking only about nonfunctional turf. That means grass that no one walks on, except to mow it. It doesn’t apply to playing fields, picnic grounds, parks, meeting areas, schools, cemeteries or any place where people gather, play, loll, visit or frolic. It won’t keep anyone from feeling wet grass under their bare toes. Instead, think fenced areas with “keep off the grass” signs, plus street medians, mall landscaping and the like.


(Editor’s Note: For rebates, classes, and water-saving tips: sdcwa.org/your-water/conservation/.)