California needs to ban lawn-watering
The California drought is highlighting a number of serious problems that our country has let fester for decades, including global warming and casual disregard for the limits of our resources. This story in particular just really demonstrates how this kind of catastrophe was inevitable, a product of a culture that has made a virtue out of exploiting the environment and doesn’t know how to change course now that the piper is demanding payment.
The entirety of California is currently experiencing drought conditions and more than 80 percent of the state is classified as an extreme drought. Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte, have been trying to conserve water in their Glendale, California home by cutting back on lawn watering, taking shorter showers, and doing larger loads of laundry. Now, they are facing a fine of up to $500 for not keeping their lawn green.
As Think Progress notes, instead of conserving water in California, water use actually went up 1% in May, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because the lack of rain means people are watering their lawns more. And while there’s a lot of talk in the state about how it’s virtuous to go without lawn-watering and how people need to really learn to conserve, the reality, as this story shows, is that the long-standing infatuation with having big, green lawns that seem to exist for no other purpose than to be wasteful clearly is triumphant. People have it in their heads that if you don’t have a green lawn, it’s because your house has gone to seed. That kind of obsession with what’s right and proper tends, unfortunately, to eclipse abstract concerns about depleting resources.
To be blunt, this isn’t a problem that America is capable of fixing. The only real solution to this is to, as Hamilton Nolan wrote in one of his more lucid rants at Gawker, to ban lawns. As long as lawns are a thing, there’s going to be social and, as this story shows, even government pressure to keep them up at a certain level, and that level is unbelievably wasteful. But a blanket law making it illegal to water grass would get the job done. Sure, some people would sneak out at night and try to water—which at least is less wasteful than mid-day watering—but slap a few fines on people and that would help fix that. More importantly, having the law outright ban it would basically read as permission to just let your damn lawn die. The nosy neighbors that have been calling the authorities on this couple, demanding that they water their lawn, would have way less leverage. People would have more motivation to redo their lawns in a style that is more adapted to their local climate. People who say they can’t do that are just being lazy and weak-minded. Faced with having to watch a lawn grow brown or fixing it up somehow, many of them might find inspiration to do something more useful with that space.
From Think Progress:
According to the Contra Costa Water Board, lawn care is typically the single biggest water user for the average property and a 500-square-foot lawn can use more than 18,000 gallons of water per year. Among their tips for maintaining a lawn while in the midst of drought conditions: “Be willing to accept a less than lush lawn during the drought.”
It’s time to move past “tips” and start getting aggressive. Grass is using up more water than people. Now there’s not enough water. Time to put people ahead of grass.