There’s been a big controversy in Austin City Council about proposed lawn watering restrictions. The mayor calls the restrictions “draconian” and says cities “in the desert” haven’t even adopted such comprehensive conservation measures.
According to research cited in Redesigning the American Lawn, 30 to 60% of all urban fresh water is used for watering lawns. Meanwhile $5.25 billion is spent on fossil-fuel-based fertilizers to maintain these unnatural landscapes, much of which is wasted. Then, think about the fuel used to run lawnmowers, leaf blowers, etc. And for what? To service some outdated ideal of an English garden in a landscape that’s poorly suited for it. Sure, it’s possible, but it is really what we should be striving for?
I was thrilled, when we bought our current house, that the previous occupants (who built the house) had kept the landscaping very natural. We don’t have a “lawn”, per se, to mow, only native grasses to maintain. When I asked the sellers if they ever irrigated, they seemed surprised at the question. Of course they hadn’t. The native grasses, trees, rocks and cacti are gorgeous just as they are. Out front, we have great bushy patches of rosemary. Out back, the scent of mint wafts up onto the back porch. Neither needs additional moisture, beyond what comes naturally.
There’s a lot I’d like to do, in terms of water collection and even a grey-water system, eventually. I do plan to have that vegetable garden, which is sure to be a bit of a water hog — though we’ll do super-efficient drip irrigation. But a lawn? Maybe we’ll do Buffalo Grass for a soccer pitch. I suppose it doesn’t suit everyone’s aesthetic sensibilities. I just don’t see the need to pretend we live in misty, rainy Scotland or England, when Central Texas, if you learn to appreciate it, has its own beauties… and they use a lot less water.