Water conservation organizations, environmental groups and public agencies are increasingly suggesting the use of synthetic grasses in the fight for water conversation.

The trend has been gaining momentum over the past few years. But installing artificial grass in place of natural turf still seems to come farther down the list of water conservation measures, say, installing household fixtures and appliances that consume less water.

Nonetheless, products like NewGrass™ are gaining ground – so to speak – as many areas of the country learn to live under continued draught conditions.

The Cochise, Ariz., water conservation office on its Web site has this to say about artificial lawns:

“While natural turf certainly has its place, artificial turf is often a viable alternative, particularly where turf applications are decorative or cover large expanses. Artificial turf eases the labor burden, the expense and time involved in weed and pest control and grooming, as well as the costs of equipment associated with traditional turf.

“Most importantly, (artificial grass) not only eliminates the need for irrigation with ground water, but acts as a permeable mulch, as it allows rain water to pass through and infiltrate into the ground.”

Reno, Nev., in 2003 started paying homeowners willing to remove grass from their yards $1 per square foot. The program paid out $13 million in its first seven months.

Tempe, now in its ninth year of drought, also pays homeowners to remove grass and plant cactus. Along with paying homeowners $100 each to remove grass, Tempe offers grants up to $20,000 to businesses that reduce water consumption by at least 15 percent. One of the key advantages of products like NewGrass™ is that they require no watering at all.

Since Phoenix installed a synthetic field in its Desert West Sports Complex last fall, it has saved over 1.5 million gallons of water and estimates it will save over 2 million gallons in its first year, according to news accounts.

In addition to the savings that water conservation bring, the city is saving money because maintenance crews that once tended to the natural field daily now only need to spend a couple of days a month there.

Payson was the first Arizona city to install a synthetic grass field, in 1997, and has added others since. The synthetic playing field has saved 1.6 million gallons of water per field per year, city officials report.

The city recently reported that after nearly 10 years of use, the artificial grass is in nearly the same condition as when it was installed.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office suggests down-sizing, eliminating or replacing natural turf with a synthetic lawn, such as NewGrass™.

“Turf can be the most water-intensive planting in a landscape,” the Extension reports on its Web site. “If you don’t need the turf, replace it with lower water use landscape options. If you need turf, consider a synthetic lawn or a native grass turf.”

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