The Las Vegas metropolitan area of Nevada will become the first region in the U.S. to ban “non-functional” or “ornamental” grass that can often be seen in the form of landscaping outside business complexes, community developments, or traffic circles and medians, state lawmakers announced.
The ban, which takes effect in 2027 in order to give the community time to comply, aims to make more productive use of what little precipitation falls in the perennially drought-stricken region. The ban will target an estimated 5,000 acres of non-functional turf throughout Southern Nevada. Essentially, the ban addresses grass that is never stepped on, or exists purely as an aesthetic element.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) estimates that the ban can reduce demands on Lake Mead water reserves to save approximately 40 litres of water per person per day in a service area with more than 2 million people. By ripping out the unused grass, water officials also estimate the region can conserve 10% of its total available Colorado River water supply
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“It’s incumbent upon us for the next generation to be more conscious of conservation and our natural resources — water being particularly important,” announced Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, who signed Bill AB356 into law earlier this month. The original legislative proposal can be viewed here.
While other major U.S. jurisdictions have imposed similar temporary bans, the new Southern Nevada ban is the first to make a grass ban permanent.
The law will not apply to grass in homeowners’ yards or to grass used for recreation at schools and parks. While approximately 1,000 acres of non-functional turf remain at residential properties — primarily front-yard grass — residents are encouraged to voluntarily convert any unused grass to drip-irrigated, desert-friendly plants and trees. The SNWA offers cash incentives (up to $3 per square foot) to help offset those costs.
The SNWA region currently has other water restrictions in place, such as watering groups, or time slots when plants can be watered.
“Approximately 60% of Southern Nevada’s water is used outdoors,” the SNWA states on its website. “This means it doesn’t earn return-flow credits and is counted against our Colorado River water allowance. For this reason, our conservation rebates and programs focus on reducing water use outdoors.”