Lawmaker says requiring grass during Utah drought makes no sense

Jan 10, 2022, 4:50 PM


FILE - In this July 16, 2014 file photo, what was once a marina sits high and dry due to Lake Mead receding in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona. Arizona won't have all the pieces of a Colorado River drought plan wrapped up by a March 4 deadline set by the federal government, state water officials said Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. It's the latest hurdle threatening the seven-state plan to take less water from the drought-starved Colorado River, which provides water for 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The good news for Utah is residents saved water over the summer. Salt Lake City and Sandy City saved 2.8 billion gallons of water this year compared to the same time last year. But the bad news is 79% of the state remains in extreme drought, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources.

A Utah lawmaker has a proposal to keep saving water in the state by loosening some rules.

House Bill 95 from Rep. Ray Ward (R-Bountiful) prohibits certain government or private entities such as homeowners’ associations from requiring a property owner or resident to plant or maintain lawn or turf where “lawn or turf” does not include a golf course, park, athletic field or sod farm.


Ward joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss his bill for the upcoming legislative session.

“Why are you sponsoring this bill?” Dujanovic asked.

“Well, because I think we need to find some other ways to make our yards look nice that aren’t the thing that uses the most water,” Ward said.

Approximately two-thirds of drinking water in Utah is used to water lawns and landscapes, says Utah State University Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping.

Let residents choose

Ward said under his bill, HOAs have to provide another option besides only lawns when they set up their rules. Noreiga asked if local control over rules for lawns and watering makes more sense than the Legislature dictating what those rules should be.

“Obviously what works down in Duchesne County may not work in Weber County or Davis County or Salt Lake, aren’t they the best prepared to make those decisions?” Noriega asked.

“If it was only Davis County that had a drought then maybe so,” Ward responded. “But the drought doesn’t respond to those boundaries.”

An impact on the Utah drought

He emphasized that the state will make more of an impact on the drought by acting like one instead of as many different entities.

Noriega said he wanted to landscape his yard and put in xeriscaping but found that option too expensive.

“The cheapest option I had was really grass and turf,” Ward said. “I’m not taking that option from anybody. You can still put in turf. Whoever wants to put in turf can put in turf. I’m just saying the city can’t force you to put in turf.”

Noriega asked if his bill had a sunset provision because some water years may end up being better than others.

“What’s always frustrating, whenever we’re talking about the drought is, does this go away if we have a very wet winter and fill up the reservoirs?” asked Noriega.

“Well, even if the levels of precipitation that we get stays the same if the state grows, there are increasing needs for water,” Ward said.

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Lawmaker says requiring grass during Utah drought makes no sense