Thirsty Lawns

By Susan Littlefield

Here's a question for you. Which covers a greater acreage in the United States -- lawns or irrigated corn fields? If you guessed lawns, you got it right. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Management there are 40 million acres of land planted to turf grasses across the country. That's more acreage than is planted to the eight largest irrigated crops combined -- corn, alfalfa, soybeans, fruit and nut trees, and vineyards.

Keeping all that turf watered can claim a big chunk of water resources. Researchers estimated the amount of water needed to give all those lawns about 2 1/2 centimeters of water a week through a combination of natural rainfall and sprinklers required more water nationwide than that supplied to the country's seven greatest water-using crops.

The point to take away from this is that, even though each individual lawn may be relatively small in size, when taken together maintaining all that turf represents a very significant use of water, a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the country. It reinforces the importance of all homeowners looking at their lawn maintenance practices to come up with ways to minimize water use, using strategies such as only applying water when needed, growing drought resistant grasses, and reducing the amount of property planted to water-hungry lawn.

To read more about the comparison between crop and lawn water usage, go to: Scienceline.

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