- Nevada has a new law banning “useless grass”.
- Restrictions are aimed at preserving the water supply.
- The state hopes to save billions of gallons of water.
- A local reservoir has shrunk to its lowest level since 1937.
Many parts of the United States are facing a water shortage. There is a likelihood of insufficient water supply at more than 200 watersheds across the country, according to research conducted by the US Forest Service. This is driven by climate change and population growth.
Without intervention, future shortages are expected to increase substantially, the report, published in the journal Earth’s Future, says.
Now, one US state is taking direct action, by banning the unused grass – on verges and outside offices and housing developments – that is sucking up water capacity.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has signed a new law that mandates the removal of purely decorative grass from around the Las Vegas Valley by the end of 2026.
The legislation follows a period of several years in which the Southern Nevada Water Authority has offered rebates to landowners for replacing grass with less thirsty foliage.
The water authority estimates that there are around 5,000 acres of “non-functional turf” – grass that is not used for recreational purposes – in the valley. By replacing that grass with plants better suited to a desert environment, they could save 9.5 billion gallons (about 43.2 billion litres) of water a year.
Drought puts state at extreme risk
Nevada is experiencing extreme weather for the second year in a row, with 40% of the state in “exceptional” drought, the highest possible level.
This is a scenario in which reservoir levels are extremely low, with wildlife populations threatened and a significant fire risk.
In Las Vegas, residents are already under mandatory watering restrictions.
The Colorado River has shrunk to half its capacity since 2000. It feeds into Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US and the source of 90% of the drinking water for Las Vegas. The lake is at its lowest level since it was filled in 1937.
Nevada is not the only state at risk: neighbouring Arizona, Utah and California, which also rely on water from the…