Is water conservation just a code phrase for desert landscaping?
Absolutely not, according to Kelly Kopp, a professor and Extension Water Conservation and Turfgrass Specialist at Utah State University. In fact, as Kopp said at the Utah Water Users conference in March, green lawns can serve a vital function in keeping urban temperatures from soaring. Also, when homeowners replace grass with xeric landscaping, they often under-water (and accidentally kill) trees, which are also an essential part of our landscape.
The problem isn’t grass per se, but overwatering. According to Kopp, most homeowners water roughly twice as much as necessary, and commercial properties use three or four times as much water as needed to maintain a healthy landscape.
The answer? USU and other organizations are researching varieties of turfgrass that can thrive on less water, as well as other ornamental plants that can grow well without additional water in our climate.
Also, they are researching climate-based irrigation controllers that adjust water usage based on rainfall, temperature, and other climate conditions. “I’m a strong proponent of these types of controllers,” Kopp said, adding that they can be “a little tricky” to set up. You can consult a QWEL certified landscaper www.qwel.net for help in installing one of these devices.