The Green, Green Grass of Home

lawn chairs in the desert

(Giving credit where it’s rightly due, this started as a response I was drafting to Eric’s “Water Musings” post
earlier this weekend but I didn’t want to hijack his blog with such a lengthy comment.)

 
Starting today, the City of Odessa has enacted even more stringent—some would say extreme—exterior watering restrictions for homeowners. That is, we’re allowed to water, via bubblers or by hand only, a scant 2 hours per week within a given 4 hour window. As you can imagine, area residents are doing a lot of hand-wringing over how they’ll even keep their trees & plants alive, much less their lawns.

Ah, the lawns. That’s the thing that’s really bothering me. Simply put, we have conditioned ourselves to an idyllic 50s-TV-inspired notion of what a home should look like. And it’s an unrealistic image that’s especially ultimately unsustainable when you live in the West Texas desert. We’ve convinced ourselves that a suburban home without a lush, green carpet of weedless turf is somehow much less cared about than those in the neighborhood that do have such. We’ve bought fully into the notion that the guy on the block with the best yard wins. And I’ll admit I’ve been as much a part of this problem as the next guy, having spent lots of money, time, and effort in years past to foster and maintain just such a showpiece front lawn.

Now of course, some locals are opting to have water wells drilled on their property so they can continue right on with the same watering practices, but that seems short-sighted at best and downright irresponsible at worst. Plus, there’s a reported 4 month average wait time now that so many are turning to this alternative source of water. And then there’s the considerable expense with little or no guarantee that a long-term personal supply of water actually does lie directly beneath your feet.

Perhaps it was inevitable that we’d run low enough on water that concessions would have to be made, but I think our civic leaders have done us a disservice in enacting severe water restrictions without first giving us homeowners some guidance on low-water (or no-water) alternatives. And likewise, the city officials should be offering some kind of incentives to those who opt for no-water solutions, as is common in many other areas of the country.

I certainly don’t want to concrete in the front yard and I’m less than crazy about crushed rock, and sadly, I’m not quite creative enough to visualize other, more attractive options. But certainly, I’m especially interested in alternatives that don’t negatively affect my property and/or resale value—and that’s something that a brown yard will almost surely do.

The artificial turf that’s available now looks and feels authentic, complete with little strands of dead thatch to complete the illusion. And it’s a long-term, nearly maintenance-free option. However, that plush, realistic synthetic lawn material must’ve been developed in a NASA lab, because they come with suborbital price tags! (Ya gotta wonder why the vendors offering this aren’t pricing their product more competitively to capitalize on the desperation of area homeowners.) And again, even if artificial turf were anywhere near affordable, that only goes to perpetuate the “lush lawn” stereotype that’s gotten into the jam we’re in.

So, if you’re in this area (or another with similar drought-stricken conditions), how do you plan to deal with the exterior water restrictions? And how does this shape your long-term home plans?