City asks homeowner to kill lawns
In the state of Texas, 100 percent of the state has been in drought conditions for months with most of the state being in the most extreme drought on record, leaving cities and counties to scramble for resources. Creeks have dried up, lakes are drying up and water is becoming scarce. Burn bans have been in effect for many months as have watering schedules in various drought struck cities.
In Austin, the water utility company has come up with a creative measure to reserve water- they are asking residents to let their St. Augustine grass die and they will pay $10 per 100 square feet of lawn to plant a more drought-hearty grass, according to the Austin American Statesman.
Not only does this save water as the lawn is not watered while it dies, but with a grass that requires less water, it is a preventative measure. St. Augustine grass has long been the choice of home builders in Austin as it is inexpensive, and some homeowner’s associations even require it, but it requires more water and fertilizer than other types of grass. Homeowners seeking the rebate must have soil at least six inches deep (which is not always the case in central Texas), sprinkler systems must be checked for leaks, and the entire front yard, back yard or both must be replace and reportedly, homeowners who have too frequently violated the city’s lawn watering rules are not eligible.
Austin Water announced the plan, requesting homeowners instead use Bermuda grass or buffalo grass which cost roughly $65 per 100 square feet and homeowners have one month to apply for the rebate, while homeowners are already eligible for a $20 per 100 square feet rebate to convert lawns to native plants and long have been eligible for a $30 per 100 square feet rebate to convert lawns to xeriscape.
Challenges: HOAs and fire risks
The tricky part for Austin homeowners and other cities that seek to implement this program is that many homeowner’s associations not only forbid dead lawns, but require specific grass types. We speculate that this rebate will most likely be used by homeowners whose lawns have already died, those who were seeking to reinstall sod, and those buying a new home.
Will other cities follow suit as the drought continues, or will dead grass be yet another fire risk in areas like Austin that have already experienced massive, historic wildfires?