California Residents Can Learn a Thing or Two From Nevada

California’s recently drought has put the spotlight on Nevada, the residents of which are experienced in living on arid lands.

SFGate reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision last month to remove 50 million square feet of lawns to conserve water comes to no surprise to Nevada residents, who’ve had to live in drought-like conditions for decades. Since 1999, Nevada has offered innovative water-conservation incentives and programs to its residents in order to comfortably resist the desert climate — and with great success.

Nevada’s Water Smart Landscaping Program, for example, has removed nearly 173 million square feet of grassy lawn space through community programs and monetary incentives. Some California residents wouldn’t have thought of getting rid of their lawns before the drought — a sentiment many in the country share. A grassy lawn and a white-picket fence has become a popular “staple” of what many consider to be the American Dream.

However, much like the water, that sentiment is vanishing fast. Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and the author of such works as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, feels that Americans should abandon the notion that every homeowner is more or less “entitled” to a grassy lawn.

“Looking at the lawn in the context of the drought, what was ridiculous has become indefensible,” Pollan said. “It’s a wasteful way of treating the land.”

Instead of having grass, Pollan instead has a vegetable garden in his front lawn, which he has been maintaining since 2006.

Grassy lawns are “absolutely absurd, but we love them,” he said. “In the arid West, we will one day look back on lawns like we now do littering, smoking in bars and public urination.”

Even though Nevada has seen great success with its conservation efforts since the 90s, some residents (especially those who grew up outside of the Southwest) were resistant, much like many California residents are resistant now. A grassy lawn, they feel, should be a right, not a privilege.

In fact, a recent survey has shown that around the globe (not just in the United States), nearly 52% of urban residents want to see more “green areas” in their cities, let alone the suburbs.

However, despite grass’s enduring image and popularity, Nevada residents ultimately realized that you can’t fight the Mojave Desert.

“We reminded everyone they live in the Mojave Desert,” said Bronson Mack of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “We had to find a way to make them rethink the best use of grass in an arid environment.”

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