Las Vegas Seeks to Ban Nonfunctional Grass
With Assembly Bill 356, Las Vegas-area water officials hope to impose the first policy in the U.S. banning grass on “nonfunctional turf” that no one walks on in such places as highway medians, housing developments and office parks. This ornamental grass, which occupies about eight square miles in Las Vegas, requires four times as much water as drought-tolerant landscaping like cactus and other succulents. Removal by 2026 could reduce annual water consumption by roughly 15 percent. Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones says, “To be clear, we are not coming after your average homeowner’s backyard.”
California imposed a temporary ban on watering ornamental grass during a recent drought, but no state or major city has eliminated specific categories of grass permanently. The water authority banned developers from planting green front yards in new subdivisions in 2003 and offers owners of older properties up to $3 per square foot to tear out sod and put in desert-type landscaping. Still, water consumption in southern Nevada has increased 9 percent since 2019. The Colorado River, which accounts for 90 percent of southern Nevada’s water, is under intense pressure. Last year was among the driest in the region’s history, when Las Vegas went a record 240 days without measurable rainfall. If the initiative is successful, it may be duplicated in other areas that face their own water crises.