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The grass isn’t always greener: Utah bill that took aim at lawns to combat drought has stalled

A close up of a lawn mower in a yard
Still From RadioWest Film 'The American Lawn'
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A bill addressing high water use by lawns is one of several pieces of legislation tackling water conservation this year.

Utah lawmakers put a bill on hold Wednesday that seeks to address Utah’s drought.

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, 60% of residential water use goes to outdoor irrigation, including lawns.

Right now, counties, cities and homeowners associations can require people to put grass in their yards.

Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, is sponsoring H.B. 95, which makes the government and HOAs offer alternatives.

“You can give them a list,” Ward said. “You can say, ‘It can be lawn or xeriscape. It can be lawn or hardscape. It can be lawn or vegetation, and I’ll tell you what kind of vegetation.’ But what you can't do is say, ‘It has to be lawn, and that's the only thing that's OK.’”

Some people who commented during the public hearing were worried about safety.

Tyler LaMarr spoke as a representative of the Utah chapter of the Community Associations Institute, which includes HOAs in its membership. He said lawns are necessary in some developments.

“In some communities, we have slope terrain that requires grass to manage storm drainage to prevent flooding,” LaMarr said. “In many of the communities we represent, sod or turf in a specific area can prevent flooding in a set of townhomes.”

Ward said he would be happy to work with people to address their concerns but stressed that something needs to be done to tackle Utah’s dire water situation.

His bill is one of several other pieces of legislation addressing water conservation this session.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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